News Scan for Jun 28, 2018

DRC Ebola contacts complete monitoring
Water source in romaine E coli outbreak
Proposed public health corps cuts
Universal flu vaccine initiative

Monitoring ends for remaining contacts of DRC's last confirmed Ebola case

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC's) health ministry said today that all contacts of the last confirmed case have completed their 21-day monitoring periods with none showing any signs of illness, marking the beginning of the countdown to the end of the nation's ninth Ebola outbreak. The end of the epidemic will be declared if a total of 42 days pass—two incubation periods—without any new confirmed Ebola cases.

In a statement, health minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, said the keys to success have been national and international surveillance teams on the ground, which have identified and tracked 1,706 contacts. He also credited the use of the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which has been given to 3,330 people.

Meanwhile, outbreak responders continue to look for potential cases, and the ministry today reported two new suspected cases, one in the remote Bikoro location and one in Wangata health zone, which includes Mbandaka, the provincial capital. Tests on four earlier suspected cases were negative, putting the outbreak total at 55 cases, including 38 confirmed, 15 probable, and 2 suspected illnesses. The number of deaths remained at 29.

Officials said with the final phase of the epidemic now under way, it will replace daily updates with weekly updates, with the next one due out on Jul 6.
Jul 28 DRC daily Ebola update


CDC: Canal water near romaine region contained E coli

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued a final outbreak report on an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.

The CDC said laboratory tests identified the outbreak strain in water samples taken from a canal near Yuma, Ariz., a lettuce growing region that's been identified as the source of the tainted romaine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating how the bacteria could have entered the water and how the water contaminated the lettuce.

The outbreak involved a total of 210 ill people from 36 states—13 more since the last report on Jun 1—making it the largest multistate outbreak of E coli O157 since a 2006 event linked to fresh spinach.

Five deaths were reported in the outbreak, along with 96 hospitalizations, including 27 patients who developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. The last reported illness began on Jun 6.

Of the 166 people interviewed, 145 (87%) reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started, but some patients got sick after coming into close contact with someone who had eaten the lettuce, the CDC said.

"According to the FDA, the last shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region were harvested on April 16, 2018, and the harvest season there has ended. Contaminated lettuce that made people sick in this outbreak should no longer be available," the CDC said, adding that it has completed its investigation.
Jun 28 CDC final outbreak update


White House suggests cutting public health corps by 40%

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Trump administration is proposing to cut the nation's uniformed public health service corps by 40%.

The US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps are the public health professionals deployed during a national disaster or disease outbreak. The uniformed doctors, nurses, and engineers, also provide public health services in some of the country's most remote locations.

The proposal, announced last week in proposed overhaul of the federal government released by the Office and Management and Budget, would reduce the corps from 6,500 officers to "no more than 4,000 officers."

According to the Post, "the proposal would also create a Reserve Corps of government employees and private citizens, similar to that used by other uniformed services, to be mobilized in a public health emergency or to back-fill critical positions left vacant during regular Corps deployment."

Most corps members work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health when not deployed.
Jun 27 Washington Post article


Seqirus joins universal flu vaccine initiative

Seqirus announced today it will be joining the Human Vaccines Project's Universal Influenza Vaccine Initiative (UIVI). Seqirus manufactures the seasonal influenza vaccine under its parent organization, CSL Limited.

UIVI, which began late last year, partners vaccine manufacturers, researchers, and global health organizations to expedite the development of universal flu vaccine, one that would not have to be administered seasonally.

As part of the UIVI, Seqirus will be researching the human immune response to offer new solutions for influenza vaccination.

"While there have been recent advances in the development of better influenza vaccines, we need to continue to work towards more transformational solutions that provide higher levels of protection against multiple strains of influenza for longer periods of time," said Wayne Koff, PhD, president and chief executive officer of the Human Vaccines Project in a press release, adding that collaborating with Seqirus expands the group's partnership with global stakeholders to accelerate the development of a more broadly protective influenza vaccine.
Jun 28 Human Vaccines Project press release

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