News Scan for Mar 27, 2020

US flulike illness climbs
;
Ebola in DRC
;
Polio in 5 nations
;
Malaria group urges steps against AMR

As COVID-19 rages, CDC reports spike in US visits for flulike illness

While laboratory-confirmed flu cases continue to decline in the United States, the number of people visiting healthcare providers for influenza-like illness (ILI) rose sharply again last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) latest FluView report today.

The CDC says the increase in ILI activity, which rose from 5.6% to 6.4% for the week ending Mar 21, is likely linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people seek care for respiratory illnesses.

High ILI activity was reported in 37 jurisdictions, down from 40 the previous week. On a regional level, outpatient visits for ILI ranged from 4.7% to 11.8%, with all regions above the national baseline of 2.4%. The number of jurisdictions reporting regional or widespread flu activity fell from 50 to 49. The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza at clinical laboratories dropped from 14.9% to 6.9%.

The hospitalization rate for flu also climbed again, rising to 67.3 per 100,000 population from 65.1 per 100,000 population the previous week, a rate that's higher than all recent flu seasons for this time of year except for the 2017-18 season. In addition, hospitalization rates for children 0 to 4 years old and adults 18 to 49 years old are now the highest the CDC has recorded for these groups. The percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza is 7.4%, above the epidemic threshold of 7.3%.

The CDC also said that 6 more pediatric deaths were reported, bringing the total for the season to 155. Aside from the 2009 pandemic flu season, that number is higher for this time of year than any season since the CDC began reporting flu statistics in 2004-05.

Testing by public health laboratories shows that 56.7% of the circulating viruses tested since Sep 29, 2019, are influenza A, and 43.3% are influenza B. The most common influenza A virus is 2009 H1N1, which accounts for 92.5% of positive specimens, and the most common influenza B virus is the Victoria lineage (98.4%).

The CDC estimates there have been 39 million flu illnesses so far this season, 400,000 hospitalizations, and 24,000 deaths.
Mar 27 CDC FluView report

 

Stretch with no new Ebola cases continues for DRC

In its latest weekly update yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) marked another week with no new Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). The last new case reported was on Feb 17.

Still, the WHO warned that, with continued insecurity and population displacement in previous Ebola hot spots, limited access to affected communities, and potential shortages of resources, a high risk of re-emergence remains and surveillance and response operations must be maintained. The WHO also repeated its call for an urgent injection of US $20 million to ensure that response teams, who are continuing to investigate suspected cases and provide support for survivors, can keep operating through the beginning of May.

"If no new resources are received, WHO risks running out of funds for the Ebola response before the end of the outbreak," the agency said.

After validating 9 historic probable cases last week, the WHO says a total of 3,453 Ebola cases have been reported in 29 health zones since the outbreak began in August 2018, with 2,273 deaths (overall case-fatality rate, 66%).
Mar 26 WHO update

 

Pakistan, 4 African countries report more polio cases

According to the latest weekly report from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), five countries reported new cases: Pakistan and four African nations.

Pakistan reported 2 more wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases, both in Sindh province. So far this year the country has reported 32 WPV1 cases.

In addition, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, and Ethiopia reported more circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) cases. Angola's two cases were in Moxico province and are included with the 2019 total, which is now 129. Cameroon has one case, its first of the year, which involves a patient with a Jan 30 paralysis onset.

Chad reported five cases, two in Batha province and one each in Guera, Tandjile, and Barh el Gazel provinces. They are the first cases of 2020, part of activity involving two different outbreaks, one linked to Jigwa province in Nigeria. Ethiopia has three more cVDPV2 cases, bringing its total for the year to five. The paralysis onset of the most recent case was Feb 12.
Mar 26 GPEI weekly report

 

Malaria group urges action on antimicrobial resistance

The Malaria Consortium yesterday published a paper outlining the steps that the global community needs to take to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

As a leading organization in the fight against malaria and other communicable diseases, the organization says it's "gravely concerned" about the impact that AMR will have on public health, including ongoing malaria control and elimination efforts.

"AMR threatens to reverse decades of progress across the health and environment sectors, and it is crucial that we come together as a community to find solutions to this global problem," the group said in a press release.

The Malaria Consortium's recommendations to global stakeholders, based on objectives laid out in the WHO's Global Action Plan on AMR, include supporting low- and middle-income countries in developing and implementing national AMR action plans, investing in increased surveillance of antibiotic use and resistance patterns, supporting the regulation of antibiotic quality and use, supporting the development of diagnostic tests; investing in community-based primary healthcare programs, investing and implementing programs to increase awareness of AMR, and funding the development and rollout of new vaccines.
Mar 26 Malaria Consortium AMR paper
Mar 25 Malaria Consortium press release

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