News Scan for Aug 16, 2018

Ebola total grows
CDC: No national measles outbreak
mRNA flu vaccine collaboration

New DRC Ebola cases recorded, including 1 in healthcare worker

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Ministry of Health (MOH) released a new update late yesterday afternoon on the growing Ebola outbreak in the eastern region of the country, noting seven new confirmed cases, one of whom is a healthcare worker at Mangina Reference Health Center.

The outbreak total now stands at 73 cases, of which 46 are confirmed and 27 are probable. Forty-three deaths have been reported, and health officials are investigating 40 suspected cases.

All seven new cases are from Mabalako and involve probable and known contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Yesterday, the MOH confirmed that ring vaccination began in the affected health zone of Ituri province. Earlier this week, Ituri confirmed six cases of Ebola, including one death.

The medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced the opening of an Ebola treatment center on Tuesday in Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak in North Kivu. A total of 37 patients are currently hospitalized in this facility, with 31 of those cases confirmed and six suspected.

"Among our patients, we have several colleagues from the Congolese health system," said Gwenola Seroux, MSF emergency programs coordinator, in a press release. "They were the first to respond, and some were exposed to the virus."
Aug 15 DRC update
Aug 16 MSF press release

CDC: No major measles outbreaks reported this summer

Despite alarming stories from CNN and Fox News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed there are no far-reaching measles outbreaks this summer.

In recent weeks media outlets have reported that 21 states were involved in a 107-person measles outbreak, as if it was a single, far-reaching outbreak happening across the country.

"We believe this news organization misinterpreted the first paragraph of our Measles Cases and Outbreaks site. Since this article was published, several other outlets have published articles as well and that may be causing some confusion," said Kristen Nordlund, a media representative from the CDC, in an interview.

Nordlund explained that each month, CDC updates its Measles Cases and Outbreaks website with the total number of measles cases that have occurred in the United States and the names of states that have reported the cases. To protect patient confidentiality, the CDC does not list the number of cases that occurred in each state.

"The 107 cases reported to CDC have been since January 2018 across 21 states, but they are not one unified outbreak," Nordlund said. Last year, a total of 188 cases were confirmed across the United States.

The World Health Organization defines an outbreak of measles as three or more confirmed cases in a population of approximately 100,000 people.

"As always, the best protection against measles is MMR [measles, mumps, and rubella] vaccine," Nordlund said, also noting that some news organizations, including CNN, have corrected their erroneous reports.
CDC measles page


BioNTech and Pfizer sign deal to develop mRNA flu vaccines

BioNTech, a biotechnology company based in Germany, announced today that it has entered a multiyear research collaboration with Pfizer to develop mRNA-based flu vaccines.

According to a statement from BioNTech, the two companies will jointly conduct research and development to advance the vaccines, with Pfizer assuming responsibility for clinical development and commercialization of the mRNA vaccines, following the completion of BioNTech's first human clinical study.

The terms of the deal provide a $120 million initial payment to BioNTech, with the potential for $305 million in additional development, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments. It also includes royalty payments if the vaccine is commercialized.

BioNTech's focus has been on targeted immunotherapies for treating cancer and infectious diseases.

Kathryn Jansen, senior vice president and head of Pfizer's vaccine development unit, said in the statement that innovative vaccine approaches are urgently needed to improve protection against flu and respond more quickly and strongly to pandemic threats. "mRNA vaccines offer a novel approach to code for any protein or multiple proteins, and the potential to manufacture higher potency flu vaccines more rapidly and at a lower cost than contemporary flu vaccines," she said.
Aug 16 BioNTech press release

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