News Scan for Jul 26, 2019

DRC Ebola rise
Universal flu vaccine push
MERS in Saudi Arabia
More DRC polio cases

DRC Ebola cases rise by 10, to 2,630; Saudi Arabia suspends DRC visas

Ebola infections have been reported in 10 more people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) outbreak, raising the total to 2,630, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) online dashboard today. Health officials are still investigating 344 suspected cases.

Six more people died from the virus, raising the fatality count to 1,762. Following the DRC president's decision to shift responsibility for the outbreak to a technical committee, detailed daily reports from the health ministry have ceased, and it's not clear if or when the country will provide regular detailed updates again.
WHO online Ebola dashboard

In other outbreak developments, Saudi Arabia's government has stopped issuing visas to residents of the DRC because of ongoing Ebola activity, despite WHO recommendations against travel restrictions, the Associated Press (AP) reported today.

The AP report is based on a letter it obtained from Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry to the DRC embassy in Riyadh that said the measure is designed to protect pilgrims and others during the upcoming Hajj observance next month. Saudi Arabia took a similar step during West Africa's Ebola outbreak.

Also, WHO officials are considering the possibility of further reducing the dose of the VSB-EBOV vaccine currently in use if the DRC's outbreak sharply worsens, Stat reported today, based on an interview with Mike Ryan, MD, the WHO's executive director of emergency programs.

Currently, there is no vaccine shortage and 500,000 doses are still available, enough if the outbreak continues at its current pace, Ryan said. However, a dramatic intensification could deplete supplies. Earlier in the outbreak, health officials cut the dose in half to stretch supplies, which put the antigen (active ingredient) in the vaccine at the same level as a trial in Guinea that showed that the vaccine was highly effective.
Jul 26 AP story
Jul 26 Stat story


Report highlights need for concerted effort to develop universal flu vaccine

Scientists and leaders must urgently take a transformational path to developing a universal flu vaccine to protect against both seasonal and potentially pandemic influenza strains, according to a report released yesterday by leading global experts.

The report, published by the Sabin-Aspen Vaccine Science & Policy Group, says the scientific community must amplify and focus resources on the overdue goal of achieving a universal influenza vaccine (UIV). The report, "Accelerating the Development of a Universal Influenza Vaccine," is the result of a 9-month-long effort of 24 international professionals with experience in public health, government, industry, finance, philanthropy, and advocacy. The group convened for the first time in October 2018.

The report's three "big ideas" call for the creation of an entity to spearhead accelerated development of the vaccine, advancement of a "transformational and innovative" research and development agenda, and implementation of a coordinated communications strategy that reinforces the true potential impact of pandemic flu and the urgency of a more broadly protective flu vaccine.

"The breakthroughs needed to eliminate the burden and threat of influenza will require a coordinated, singularly-focused effort on UIV development that leverages the combined resources of governments, industry, philanthropy, and academia," Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Sabin-Aspen group's co-chair, said in a Sabin-Aspen news release.

The other co-chair, Shirley M. Tilghman, PhD, professor of molecular biology and public affairs at Princeton University, added, "To achieve the critical goal of a UIV, we must extend the range of scientific and technological capabilities and focus them on solutions to the intractable problems that to date have thwarted our success."

"We need all hands on deck to bring about a universal vaccine that can take the threat of influenza off the table," said Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH, Sabin's president of global immunization and influenza lead.
Jul 25 Sabin-Aspen report
Jul 25 Sabin-Aspen news release


MERS infects 1 more in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabia ministry of health (MOH) yesterday reported one more MERS-CoV infection, which involves a 59-year-old man from Riyadh, according to an official statement.

The man had a history of contact with camels, and his exposure to MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) isn't thought to be from another known patient.

His is the sixth MERS-CoV case in Saudi Arabia in July.
Jul 25 Saudi MOH report


DRC reports 4 more vaccine-derived polio cases

The DRC has reported four more illnesses involving circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2), according to the latest weekly update today from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

Three cases are in Kasai province—two in Kalonda-West and one in Nyanga, with paralysis onsets of Jun 3, 7, and 5, respectively. The fourth case involves a patient from Tshumbe in Sankuru province with an illness onset of Jun 14.

The cases raise the number of cVDPV2 cases this year in the DRC to 15. The country is experiencing eight separate outbreaks, one each in Haut Katanga, Mongala, and Sankuru province, plus two in Haut Lomami and three in Kasai province.

Polio activity in the DRC is occurring against a backdrop of the country's largest Ebola outbreak and a measles outbreak.

In other polio developments, the GPEI noted three more environmental detections of wild poliovirus type 1 in Pakistan and two more positive cVDPV2 samples in Nigeria.
Jul 26 GPEI weekly update

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