News Scan for Feb 17, 2020

More Saudi MERS cases
Africa Ebola vaccine licenses
H5N6 avian flu in Vietnam

Two more MERS cases confirmed by Saudi health ministry

Over the weekend and through today, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported two MERS-CoV cases, bringing the total number of cases detected in February so far to eight.

The first new MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case involves a 72-year-old man from Wadi ad-Dawasir. The man's contact with camel was unknown, and he was not a healthcare worker. He is listed as a primary case, meaning it is unlikely he contracted the virus from another person.

The second case, noted today, occurred in a 40-year-old man from Najran. His case is also listed as primary, and his camel contact status is unknown.

Saudi Arabia reported 15 cases in January, including a probable healthcare-related cluster of 6 cases in Abha.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest monthly update that, since 2012, it has received reports of 2,499 MERS-CoV cases, at least 861 of them fatal. The vast majority of these cases were in Saudi Arabia.
Feb 15 Saudi MOH report
Feb 17 Saudi MOH report


WHO: 4 African countries license Ebola vaccine

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, Ghana, and Zambia have licensed Merck's Ervebo—the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine—according to the WHO.

The move allows Merck to stockpile the vaccine and distribute it to countries most at risk of Ebola virus disease outbreaks. Once licensed, the vaccine can be used outside of research protocols and clinical trials.

"The approval of the Ebola vaccine by these countries is another milestone in the fight against this unforgiving disease," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, in a news release. "Africa has rallied to cement hard-fought progress to keep its people safe from Ebola."

Ervebo has been used on almost 300,000 people in the DRC since August 2018, when the country's current Ebola outbreak began. Preliminary studies suggest the vaccine is 97.5% effective in preventing Ebola transmission. 

According to the WHO's online Ebola dashboard there have been 3,432 Ebola cases confirmed in the current outbreak, including 2,249 deaths.
Feb 14 WHO news release
WHO Ebola dashboard


Vietnam confirms 6 new H5N6 avian flu outbreaks

Vietnamese officials confirmed six H5N6 avian flu outbreaks in the northern part of the country, including five in Thanh Hoa province and one in Nghe An province, according to a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) report today.

The outbreaks in Thanh Hoa affected village and backyard flocks ranging in size from 970 to 3,167 poultry, while the one in Nghe An involves a village flock of 161 birds. The outbreaks began on Feb 12 through Feb 14.

All told, the virus affected 3,200 poultry, killing 1,750 of them, among 8,087 susceptible birds. Officials are disinfecting the premises and have placed surveillance zones around the outbreak areas. Since Feb 4, Vietnamese veterinary officials have reported 10 other H5N6 outbreaks to the OIE.
Feb 17 OIE report

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