News Scan for Dec 04, 2019

Monkeypox in the UK
Impeded Ebola response
Saudi MERS case
US flu vaccine uptake
Climate change and health

UK reports imported monkeypox case linked to Nigeria

Public Health England (PHE) today confirmed that a person in the southwest of England has been diagnosed as having monkeypox, likely contracted after a recent visit to Nigeria.

The United Kingdom documented its first cases of the rare virus last year, in two patients who also likely contracted the disease in Nigeria, plus a case involving a healthcare worker—the first instance of spread of the disease in the country.

"Monkeypox does not spread easily between people, and the overall risk to the general public is very low," said Meera Chand, MBBS, a consultant microbiologist at PHE, in a news release. "We are following up with those who have had close contact with the patient to offer advice and to monitor them as necessary."

The PHE said it is contacting passengers who traveled in close proximity to the patient on the same flight to the country.

Monkeypox is a self-limiting poxvirus, similar to smallpox but less severe. It is not considered easily spread between humans, and is often transmitted to people via contact with rodents. The disease is mostly seen in western and central African countries.
Dec 4 PHE press release
Sep 26, 2018, CIDRAP News story "UK confirms monkeypox in healthcare worker"


Ebola response still impeded in wake of violent attacks

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) online Ebola dashboard shows no new cases today, a sign the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is still hindered after violent attacks in Biakato Mines and Mangina last week that caused workers to retreat from the outbreak's hot spots. 

In the latest situation report on the outbreak, the WHO's African regional office said the targeted attacks have severely restricted access to affected communities in multiple locations.

"As seen previously during this outbreak, such disruptions limit contact tracing, surveillance, and vaccination efforts, and they may result in increased transmission," the WHO said. "Following insecurity, the volume of reported daily alerts from healthcare facilities and the community dropped in Beni in the six-day period from 23 to 28 November 2019 from approximately 400 per day to approximately 170."

From Nov 25 to Dec 1, the WHO tracked 10 new cases of the deadly virus, half from Mabalako and half from Mandima.

In a promising development, the WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, MD, announced on Twitter today that Butembo, a former hot spot, has gone 42 days without a new Ebola case.
Dec 3 WHO situation report
Dec 4 Matshidiso Moeti


Saudi Arabia tracks first MERS case of December

Today Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported one more MERS-CoV case, in a 65-year-old man from Hafar Al Batin, a town in the northern part of the country.

The MOH said the man had contact with camels, and his MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) exposure is classified as primary, meaning he probably wasn't exposed to another MERS patient. He is not a healthcare worker.

This is the first MERS case reported in December. Eleven cases were recorded in November, compared with 14 in October and 4 in September.

As of the end of October, the WHO has received reports of 2,482 cases, at least 854 of them fatal, since the disease was first identified in 2012. Saudi Arabia has been by far the hardest-hit country.
Dec 4 MOH report


Survey finds 44% of adults have been vaccinated against flu

According to a new survey, as of early November, 44% of adults said they had been vaccinated against flu, and 18% said haven't been immunized but intend to do so. Results from a poll from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago also revealed that 37% of adults don't plan on getting the flu vaccine.

The findings are similar to the group's survey from last year; 2018 vaccine uptake was 43%, and the percentage who said they wouldn't get a flu shot was 41%—both within the poll's margin of error.

People older than 60 had the highest uptake, at 65%, but one in five of that age-group still don't plan on being vaccinated, though they are at higher risk of flu complications. Vaccination rates are typically lowest in adults ages 45 to 59, and the survey found that only 34% have been vaccinated already.

When asked why they didn't plan on being vaccinated, adults were most likely to voice concerns about side effects (37%) or that the vaccine doesn't work very well (36%).

Researchers conducted the poll between Nov 7 and Nov 11, and it includes 1,020 interviews with a nationally representative sample. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4.06%.

Caroline Pearson, NORC's senior vice president, said in a NORC press release that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this year's flu season is off to an early start in most states and has already been linked to deaths. "This year's vaccine appears well matched against the current strains, and widespread vaccination remains our best defense against this sometimes deadly virus."
Dec 3 NORC press release
Dec 6, 2018, CIDRAP News scan "Survey: 41% of Americans have no plans to get flu vaccine"


Report shows nations planning for climate health risks but lack funding

The WHO yesterday released its first global snapshot of progress on climate change and health, which reveals that countries are increasingly prioritizing the health issue, but most aren't acting on their own plans to tackle the problem.

According to a WHO press release yesterday, the new report is based on a survey in 2018 of 101 countries. Half of the countries have developed a national health and climate change strategy or plan, but only 38% have finances that target any level of implementation and less than 10% have earmarked funds to completely implement the plans.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said in the news release, "Climate change is not only racking up a bill for future generations to pay, it's a price that people are paying for now with their health." He added that it's a moral imperative for countries to have the resources they need to act against climate change and protect health now and in the future.

The survey also found that 48% of countries have done risk assessments of climate change on public health. The most common climate-related risks identified by countries were heat stress and injury or death from extreme weather events. The list also included food, water, and vector-borne diseases such as cholera, dengue, or malaria. Only 60% of countries, however, said the assessment results had little or no influence on allocating human and financial resources to address the expected climate-related health threats. The WHO said mainstreaming health in national and international climate processes could help countries access the financial support they need.

The report also found that countries have problems accessing international climate financing, with 75% reporting a lack of information on opportunities, 60% reporting a lack of connection of health actors to the climate financing process, and 50% reporting a lack of capacity to write proposals.
Dec 3 WHO press release
Dec 3 WHO

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