News Scan for Mar 02, 2021

News brief

First fatality noted in Listeria outbreak tied to Hispanic-style soft cheese

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a new case of Listeria monocytogenes in an outbreak associated with queso fresco made by El Abuelito Cheese Inc, raising the total number of cases to 11.

The CDC also reported the first fatality linked to this outbreak, which was in Maryland. Ten of the case-patients sickened in this outbreak have been hospitalized in four states reporting cases: New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia.

On Feb 19, El Abuelito Cheese Inc., of Paterson, New Jersey, recalled all products containing queso fresco—a Hispanic soft cheese—made at the same facility with a sell-by date of Mar 28. That recall expanded on Feb 27 to include more cheeses that were made or packed at the same facility as the contaminated queso fresco, including quesillo string cheese and requeson ricotta cheese.

Also on Feb 27, the CDC recommended all those at highest risk from illness due to Listeria, including pregnant women, those over 65, and the immunocompromised, to not eat any brand of quesillo or requeson cheeses, because quesillo and requeson cheeses made or packed by El Abuelito Cheese Inc. may have been distributed under other brand names.

"The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses," the CDC said. "This is because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for Listeria. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak."
Mar 1 CDC


DR Congo reports 3 more Ebola cases

Provincial health officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) said yesterday that three more Ebola cases have been confirmed in North Kivu, raising the outbreak total to 11, according to a report from Reuters.

North Kivu Health Minister Eugene Nzanzu Salita said the new cases involve people from Butembo health zone. If added to the World Health Organization (WHO) total, they would be the first cases reported since Feb 22. The DRC first reported this most recent outbreak in early February.

In Guinea's outbreak, the total remains at 17 cases, 7 of them fatal, the WHO's African regional office said yesterday on Twitter. The weekly update from the WHO's African regional office had some details on one of the country's latest cases, involving a person who wasn't a known contact who died in the community and was buried with Ebola precautions in place.

The country's latest outbreak has been under way since the middle of February and is occurring in the same area of southern Guinea where West Africa's massive outbreak of 2014-16 began.
Mar 1 Reuters story
Mar 1 WHO African regional office tweet
Mar 1 WHO African regional office weekly report

COVID-19 Scan for Mar 02, 2021

News brief

Previous COVID-19 associated with greater post-vaccination antibodies

After vaccination with an mRNA-based COVID-19 shot, antibody levels for immunoglobulin G (IgG) were higher in the short term in healthcare workers (HCWs) who had previous COVID-19 infections than those who had never had the disease, according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA.

The authors recruited their pool of 59 HCWs from a previous serosurvey at the University of Maryland Medical Center, dividing the cohort into three groups: SARS-CoV-2 IgG-antibody negative (17 HCWs), IgG-positive with asymptomatic COVID (16), and IgG-positive with symptomatic COVID (26). HCWs received the first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine, and blood was drawn 0, 7, and 14 days post-vaccination in December 2020 and January 2021.

Those who did not have COVID had median reciprocal half-maximal binding titers lower than 50 on days 0 and 7 post-vaccination, followed by a median of 924 on day 14, with higher numbers indicating higher antibody levels. Previously infected but asymptomatic HCWS, on the other hand, had titers of 208, 29,364, and 34,033 at days 0, 7, and 14, respectively, while those previously infected and asymptomatic had titers of 302, 32,301, and 35,460, respectively.

"Given the ongoing worldwide vaccine shortages, the results inform suggestions for a single-dose vaccination strategy for those with prior COVID-19 or placing them lower on the vaccination priority list," the researchers write.
Mar 1 JAMA research letter


Most moms say yes to COVID vaccine for themselves, kids, survey says

In a survey of almost 18,000 pregnant women and mothers of children younger than 18, most would receive a COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinate their children, according to a European Journal of Epidemiology study published yesterday. Across 16 countries, vaccine acceptance was highest in India, the Philippines, and Latin America, and the lowest was in Russia, the United States, and Australia.

Responses were submitted from Oct 28 to Nov 18, 2020. Almost half of respondents were from the United States (4,014, 23.0%), the United Kingdom (2,702, 15.1%), or India (1,639, 9.2%) while the three least-represented countries (Chile, Peru, New Zealand) accounted for under 6%.

A little over half of pregnant women (52.0%), 73.3% of non-pregnant women, and 69.2% of their children would get vaccinated by a safe, free vaccine with 90% effectiveness, the survey reports. The most influential acceptance factors include confidence in the vaccine's safety and effectiveness, concern about COVID-19, and attitudes toward routine vaccines. Reluctance was driven by a lack of data in these target populations and concern over politicized agendas.

Overall, 53.0% of women were confident that a nationally approved COVID-19 vaccine would be safe, and 60.4% thought it would be effective.

Acceptance varied greatly by country. For instance, 90% of non-pregnant women in India, Brazil, and Mexico would get the vaccine, versus less than 56% in Australia, the United States, and Russia. "Women's risk perception of COVID-19 in the US and Russia, two countries, was comparable to that in low incidence countries (i.e. Australia and New Zealand), potentially suggesting a phenomenon of COVID-19 denial," the researchers write. "These results underscore that a high burden of disease alone may not provide sufficient motivation."

"The perceived threat of COVID-19, level of trust in public health agencies, and existing pre-COVID 19 vaccine attitudes play key roles shaping vaccine acceptance and confidence. Vaccination campaigns should be tailored to alleviate these specific concerns," said senior author Julia Wu, ScD, in a Harvard University press release.
Mar 1 Eur J Epidemiol
Mar 1 Harvard
press release

This week's top reads