News Scan for Jan 04, 2019

New Saudi MERS case
Knighthood for Wellcome Trust experts
Acute flaccid myelitis in Europe
Panama hantavirus rise

New case of MERS in Saudi Arabia part of household cluster

Saudi Arabia's health ministry today reported a new MERS-CoV case, the second case in 2019 and involving a household contact of a previous patient, according to an epidemiologic week 1 notification.

The patient is an 87-year-old man from Riyadh who is hospitalized for his MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection. The man did not have camel contact and is listed as a household contact of a previously recorded MERS case.

Earlier this week, a 54-year-old man from Riyadh was also diagnosed as having MERS. His source of infection was listed as primary.

The new case likely lifts on the global total since 2012 to 2,282 cases, at least 806 of them fatal.
Jan 4 MOH


Wellcome Trust experts for global health, science service knighted

Two infectious disease experts from the United Kingdom's Wellcome Trust—Jeremy Farrar, MD, PhD, and Mike Ferguson, PhD—were knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in New Year's honors for their services to global health and science, the group announced in a Dec 29 press release.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who chairs Wellcome's board of governors, said the honors recognize the commitment Farrar and Ferguson have made to science and health for individuals and communities globally.

Farrar joined Wellcome in 2013 as its director following 18 years with the Oxford Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam. He has mentored dozens of students and fellows and has published more than 600 scientific papers. Manningham-Buller said that, at Wellcome, "Jeremy has led substantial change, including bringing focused efforts to bear on antimicrobial resistance, vaccines and the risk of epidemics, science education, mental health and diversity and inclusion in research."

Ferguson has been a member of Wellcome's governor's board since 2012 and is professor of life sciences at the University of Dundee. "Mike has dedicated his life's work to tackling neglected tropical diseases," Manningham-Buller said. "He has always been determined that his research should lead to benefits for patients. Of particular note is his establishment of the highly successful Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee."

The UK New Year's Honors program, which has made awards since at least 1890, recognizes outstanding achievements across the United Kingdom. In total, 1,148 people have received an award.
Dec 29 Wellcome Trust press release
Dec 28 UK government New Year's Honors List


Enterovirus D68 linked to 29 acute flaccid myelitis cases in Europe

According to a study today in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 29 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) reported in 12 European countries in 2016 were related to infections with enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

The study was based on questionnaires sent to 66 virologists and clinicians in Europe in October of 2016. Five cases of AFM linked to EV-D68 were recorded in France, five in Scotland, and three each in Sweden, Norway, and Spain in 2016. Twenty-six of the 29 cases were in children (median age 3.8 years). EV-D68 was detected in 27 of 29 respiratory specimens, 8 stool samples, and 2 cerebrospinal fluid samples.

Two patients died, and only three made a full recovery from the polio-like symmetric flaccid limb weakness, cranial nerve deficits, and bulbar symptoms (related to the medulla oblongata) that are the hallmark of AFM diagnosis, the authors said.

"By activating the 2016 EV-D68 AFM Working Group network, we were able to identify 29 EV-D68–related AFM cases in Europe in 2016, but these probably represent only the tip of the iceberg," the authors said.

Though the association between EV-D68 and AFM has been investigated since 2014, causality has not yet been proven. While enteroviruses are common among children, AFM is a rare, mysterious illness. The authors suggest establishing a European email alert system to help clinicians track any future connections between AFM and EV-D68.
Jan 4 Pediatr Infect Dis J study


Panama reports increased hantavirus cases

Panama's health ministry has reported an increase in hantavirus cases for 2018, mainly affecting residents of Los Santos province in the south of the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement today.

From Jan 1 though Dec 22, Panama reported 103 confirmed cases, which included 99 in Los Santos province, where 48 were classified as the pulmonary form of the disease, 4 of them fatal.

Hantavirus cases have been reported in Panama since 1999, and genetic sequencing revealed that the virus linked to the recent outbreak involves Choclo virus, first isolated that year in western Panama.

Panama's recent increase is probably due to changes in the abundance and distribution of rodent species, as well as strengthened surveillance and lab testing at the provincial level, the WHO said. It added that environmental and ecological factors affecting rodents can have an impact on human disease trends.

World Youth Day, an event for young people organized by the Catholic Church, is set to take place in Panama later this month, mainly in Panama City, with side events in other provinces. Though Panama doesn't usually see a seasonal increase in January, cases have been tied to outdoor and agricultural activities in rural environments. The WHO said there is no significant risk of international spread, but it recommends that member states continue efforts to detect, investigate, and manage hantavirus infections, paying particular attention to travelers returning from affected areas.
Jan 4 WHO statement

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