News Scan for Nov 14, 2019

Ebola in the DRC
Climate change and infectious disease
Mosquito sterilization program

Ebola sickens one more in DRC outbreak, WHO sees positive signs

One more Ebola case was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) outbreak today, raising the overall total to 3,292 cases, which includes 118 listed as probable, according to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) online Ebola dashboard.

Outbreak responders are still investigating 527 suspected cases. Meanwhile, the number of deaths held steady at 2,192.

The DRC's Ebola technical committee (CMRE) in its latest daily update noted locations for four cases reported yesterday. Two were from Beni and two were from Mabalako.

In its weekly snapshot of the outbreak, the WHO today reported some promising developments. For the week ending Nov 12, all six confirmed cases were from Beni and Mabalako and were known contacts of confirmed patients. All of the cases are linked to the Biakato Mines area in Mandima, which has not reported an illness since Nov 4.

Kalunguta health zone has passed 21 days, one incubation period, with no new cases, and Katwa health zone has passed two incubation periods with no new cases.

The proportion of registered contacts is increasing and was 100% for the last 6 confirmed cases. Health officials are concerned, however, about a shift in cases to Mabalako, where ongoing transmission on Bingo and Ngoyo is challenging due to problems with security and access.
WHO online Ebola dashboard
Nov 13 CMRE update
Nov 14 WHO update


Warming weather patterns tied to increased rate of infectious disease

In the latest update to the Lancet's Countdown, an annual effort to monitor the health effects of climate change, authors say increasingly frequent warming patterns of weather are tied to increasing rates of infectious disease. The report was published yesterday.

"Trends in climate suitability for disease transmission are particularly concerning, with 9 of the 10 most suitable years for the transmission of dengue fever on record occurring since 2000," the authors said. "Similarly, since an early 1980s baseline, the number of days suitable for Vibrio (a pathogen responsible for part of the burden of diarrheal disease) has doubled, and global suitability for coastal Vibrio cholerae has increased by 9.9%."

2018 was one of the hottest on record, with more than 220 million additional exposures to heatwaves compared with a 1986-2005 climatological baseline. Increasing temperatures are linked to rising mortality from dengue fever, particularly in Southeast Asia. Rising temperatures also increase areas of coastline suitable for Vibrio bacteria, which has increased by 31% in the Baltic coastline and 29% in the northeastern coastline of the United States.

In an accompanying editorial in The Lancet, the editors of the journal warn that the link made by individuals between health issues and climate change is weak. They cite a new indicator that uses English-language Wikipedia searches, which show just 0.18% of total health clicks lead to a climate change article, and 1.12% of co-clicks from a climate change article to a health issue.

"With both health and the climate crisis engaging such heightened interest, an opportunity exists for health professionals to bring the inextricable links between them into focus," the authors write.
Nov 13 Lancet study

Nov 13 Lancet editorial


Sterilization program to target Aedes mosquitoes

Today the WHO announced that a program to sterilize male mosquitoes, and control vector-borne disease such as Zika and dengue, will soon be tested.

The sterile insect technique (SIT) uses radiation to make large numbers of male mosquitoes unable to reproduce. The mosquitoes are then released in the wild where they mate with females but cannot produce offspring. Aedes mosquitos will be the first kind to be treated with SIT.

"Half the world's population is now at risk of dengue," said Soumya Swaminathan, MD, WHO's chief scientist. "And despite our best efforts, current efforts to control it are falling short. We desperately need new approaches and this initiative is both promising and exciting."

According to the WHO, diseases transmitted by mosquitoes such as malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever account for about 17% of all infectious diseases globally, and result in more than 700,000 deaths annually.

SIT was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and has successfully reduced the populations of the Mediterranean fruit fly and the New World screwworm fly.
Nov 14 WHO press release

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