News Scan for Feb 08, 2019

DRC Ebola total hits 800
African Lassa fever outbreak support
Polio cases from three countries
Mayaro virus vaccine trial
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DRC Ebola outbreak reaches 800 cases

Today the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) confirmed two new cases of Ebola and three more deaths from the virus in the ongoing outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Outbreak totals now stand at 800 cases, including 502 deaths, and 178 suspected cases are still under investigation.

The new cases are from Oicha and Kyondo, and the deaths occurred in Katwa, Butembo, and Kyondo. The ministry said they also validated seven probable cases (historical deaths) in Katwa, which lifts the number of probable cases to 61.

Officials in the DRC also confirmed cases of Ebola in members of the Congolese national army stationed in Butembo.

"Two soldiers, from the Oicha health zone and working at Butembo airport, were identified as confirmed cases of Ebola on January 12, 2019. The two soldiers spent five days at the Treatment Center Ebola and came out cured," the health ministry said in its daily update.

As of today, 76,425 people have been vaccinated with Merck's Ebola vaccine, including 20,473 in Beni, 19,171 in Katwa, 8,517 in Butembo, and 6,076 in Mabalako.
Feb 8 DRC update


WHO scales up efforts to fight Lassa fever outbreaks in Africa

Five African nations—Nigeria, Benin, Guinea, Liberia, and Togo—are currently fighting Lassa fever outbreaks, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is scaling up efforts to support the countries in outbreak response.

"While these outbreaks are occurring during the Lassa fever season in countries where the disease is endemic, the speed of escalation is of concern," the WHO said in a statement today.

Nigeria is the hardest hit country, with 213 confirmed cases, including 42 deaths, reported since Jan 22. Among the confirmed cases are four healthcare workers.

Last year, Nigeria saw its biggest Lassa fever outbreak in decades. Together Benin, Guinea, Liberia and Togo have reported 12 cases, including 2 deaths.

In addition to providing aid and information to those countries, the WHO is also guiding readiness efforts in six other at-risk countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Sierra Leone.

Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic illness, usually transmitted to humans via the urine or feces of rodents. Person-to-person transmission can also occur in healthcare and community settings.
Feb 8 WHO statement


New polio cases reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Niger

In the latest polio developments, Afghanistan and Pakistan have reported new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases, their first of 2019, and Niger has reported one circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) case, according to a weekly update from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

Pakistan's case was reported from Bajour Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Area in a patient whose paralysis symptoms began on Jan 18. Also, the country reported six more WPV1 environmental positives from samples collected during the first half of January: two from Lahore district, one from Faisalabad in Punjab province, one each from Quetta and Killa Abdulla districts in Balochistan province, in one from DI Kahn in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Afghanistan's latest case was reported from the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province in a patient whose symptoms began on Jan 4. The detection of a human case follows the recent identification of WPV1 environmental positives in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Elsewhere, Niger's latest cVDPV2 case was reported from Magaria district in Zinder province in a patient whose paralysis symptoms began on Dec 5, 2018. The new case brought Niger's cVDPV2 total for 2018 to 10 in an outbreak genetically linked to circulation in Nigeria's Jigwa state.
Feb 8 GPEI update


Preclinicial results promising for Mayaro virus vaccine

A study in mice of a novel, synthetic DNA vaccine against Mayaro virus—a mosquito borne virus that has the potential to follow in Zika's footsteps—showed that it provided potent protection and immune responses.

Mayaro virus, part of the alphavirus family, was first discovered in 1954 and has been confined to parts of Trinidad and Tobago and neighboring areas of South America, but the detection of a case in Haiti in 2015 and lab evidence suggesting multiple mosquito species can carry the virus have raised concerns that it has the capacity to expand to other parts of the Americas. Symptoms of Mayaro virus infection are similar to those of dengue or chikungunya.

Researchers at The Wistar Institute developed the vaccine, which targets the virus' envelope protein, and reported their animal trial findings yesterday in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Mice received intramuscular injection, followed by electroporation to enhance vaccine uptake and provide a dose-sparing effect.

In the virus challenge part of the study, the vaccine completely protected the animals from death and clinical infection signs. Immunization induced neutralizing antibodies and cellular responses to multiple regions of virus' E protein.

Kar Muthumani, PhD, study coauthor and director of The Wistar Institute's Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said in press release yesterday that the preclinical findings support the need for further testing.

"DNA vaccines have a remarkable safety record in numerous clinical trials, can be designed and manufactured readily, and can be distributed cost-effectively, making them an important tool for combating emerging infectious diseases like MAYV especially in resource-poor settings, where they often arise," he said.
Feb 7 Wistar Institute press release
Feb 7 PLOS Negl Trop Dis abstract

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