News Scan for Feb 24, 2021

H5N8 flu risk to people
Tick-borne encephalitis vaccine

ECDC finds low threat to humans from H5N8 avian flu

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) today issued a risk assessment regarding human H5N8 avian flu cases reported recently in Russia, with the caveat that it was basing its report on very limited data.

Russia recently reported seven infections in people who worked at poultry facilities in the south. They reportedly had asymptomatic infections, and no human-to-human transmission was noted.

The ECDC said that, since October, about 1,700 outbreaks in birds involving H5N8 and other avian flu strains have been reported in Europe and neighboring countries.

Currently, the risk is very low for the public and low for people exposed to the virus in occupational settings, the ECDC said. It added that H5N8 remains avian-adapted, with no markers for adaptation to mammals.

So far it doesn't appear to be pathogenic in humans, and the virus remains susceptible to existing antivirals. Disease severity is asymptomatic or mild, so the ECDC assessed the severity impact as very low.
Feb 24 ECDC risk assessment
Feb 22 CIDRAP News story "Russia reports first human H5N8 avian flu cases"


FDA accepts priority review for Pfizer’s tick-borne encephalitis vaccine

Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted priority review of TicoVac, Pfizer's tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) vaccine. If approved, TicoVac could be used to prevent active infections in people 1 year and older.

"For many years, our TBE vaccine has helped protect millions of people in Europe from this potentially serious disease. We are proud that today's U.S. FDA Priority Review acceptance acknowledges the potential value that our vaccine candidate can bring," said Nanette Cocero, PhD, the global president of vaccines for Pfizer, in a company press release. "If approved in the U.S., we hope this vaccine will help protect those traveling to or residing temporarily in at-risk locations, potentially including military personnel who are serving overseas."

TicoVac has been approved for use outside of the United States for more than 40 years, and in real-world studies the vaccine prevents disease in 96% to 99% of recipients after two doses. More than 160 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed outside of the United States since 1976.

TBE, which is endemic in parts of Europe and Asia, is a viral infection of the brain and spine. Though it rarely causes death, one third of people with CBE can have long-term effects, including cognitive changes, muscle weakness, or permanent paralysis.

Though TBE is not endemic in the United States, it has been reported in 35 countries. There are no approved treatments for the disease.
Feb 23 Pfizer
press release

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