Category Archives: Pandemics

News, updates and alerts about pandemic outbreaks and events.

Outbreak Reported In Madagascar

Compliments of OutBreak News Today 

In early December 2016, the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Madagascar alerted WHO of a suspected plague outbreak in Befotaka district, Atsimo Atsinanana region in the south-eastern part of the country. The district is outside the area known to be endemic area in Madagascar. No plague cases have been reported in this area since 1950.

Bipolar staining of a plague smear prepared from lymph aspirated from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient./CDC
Bipolar staining of a plague smear prepared from lymph aspirated from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient./CDC

As of 27 December 2016, 62 cases (6 confirmed, 5 probable, 51 suspected) including 26 deaths (case fatality rate of 42%) have been reported in two adjacent districts in two neighboring regions of the country. 28 cases, including 10 deaths have been reported from Befotaka District in Atsimo-Atsinanana Region and 34 cases including 16 deaths have been reported from Iakora district in Ihorombe Region.

Of the 11 samples tested, 5 were positive for plague on rapid diagnostic test and 6 are now confirmed at Institut Pasteur laboratory. Of the total reported cases, 5 are classified as pneumonic plague cases and the remaining as bubonic plague.

Retrospective investigations carried out in those two districts showed that it is possible that the outbreak might have started in mid-August 2016. The investigation in neighboring villages is still ongoing. On 29 December, an investigation carried out within 25 km of the initial foci in Befotaka district has reported three deaths and is being investigated further for possible linkage to the outbreak.

The affected zone is located in a very remote and hard to reach and highly insecure area (classified as red zone due to local banditry). Despite arrangements made with the local authorities, insecurity slows down the investigations and response activities. In addition, a helicopter has been made available but its use has been limited due to bad weather and financial limitations.

A 15 member multidisciplinary team from MoH, Institute Pasteur including public health professional, epidemiologist, entomologist and laboratory professional visited the affected area for epidemiological investigation and response activities.

Key response activities already implemented include:

  • Epidemiological investigations including active case finding and rapid diagnostic testing
  • Training of community health workers on community-based surveillance and early detection of cases
  • Clinical Management of suspected cases
  • Identification, follow up and chemoprophylaxis of contacts
  • Vector and reservoir control through the use of Kartman boxes
  • Sensitization of the population
  • Strengthening the community based surveillance
  • Free treatment of other diagnosed disease such as malaria
  • Strengthening early detection in neighbouring districts
  • Laboratory confirmation

Based on the available information to date, the risk of international spread appears unlikely, especially as it is occurring in very remote area. However, the difficulty to reach the affected area hampered prompt investigation and therefore at this stage the real magnitude of the outbreak is still to be defined and the risk of further spread in the area and sustained transmission cannot be formally ruled out. WHO continues supporting ongoing investigation and response activities.

Zika Virus Update

Compliments of the LA County Department of Public Health

On January 15, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women not to travel to areas where the Zika virus was spreading. Six months later, more than 60 countries or territories have reported new local transmission of Zika. By August 4, 2016, nearly 1700 cases of travel-associated Zika infection, including 479 in pregnant women, had been reported in the continental United States; Puerto Rico is experiencing rapid and extensive spread of the epidemic.1

zika-baby

Florida has documented 5 symptomatic and 8 asymptomatic locally acquired Zika infections in a 6-block area north of downtown Miami. Comprehensive mosquito control efforts, including reduction of standing water, provision of repellents containing diethyltoluamide (DEET), and application of pyrethroid insecticides and larvicides using backpack sprayers and trucks to eliminate adult and larval forms of mosquitoes, were initiated on confirmation of the first cases. Persistent findings of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes led to a decision to also use aerial spraying with naled and larvicide within 3 days of documentation of the risk of ongoing Zika transmission.

Download the Resource Doc HERE  from the LA County Department of Public Health providing key information sources.

Haiti Death Toll Rises to 1,000

By : Jodeph Guyler Delva

Haiti started burying some of its dead in mass graves in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a government official said on Sunday, as cholera spread in the devastated southwest and the death toll from the storm rose to 1,000 people.

The powerful hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into Haiti on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rains that left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

A Reuters tally of numbers from local officials showed that 1,000 people were killed by the storm in Haiti, which has a population of about 10 million and is the poorest country in the Americas.

The official death toll from the central civil protection agency is 336, a slower count because officials must visit each village to confirm the numbers.

Authorities had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose, said Kedner Frenel, the most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula.

Frenel said 522 people were killed in Grand’Anse alone. A tally of deaths reported by mayors from 15 of 18 municipalities in Sud Department on the south side of the peninsula showed 386 people there. In the rest of the country, 92 people were killed, the same tally showed.

Frenel said there was great concern about cholera spreading, and that authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

Common Species of Mosquito May Be Carrying Zika Virus.

By Ophelia Eden

Scientists believe the virus is now being carried by a more common species of mosquito. A confined species of mosquito called the Aedes Aegypt mosquito (who primarily are confined to the tropics) was thought to be the sole carrier of the virus.

However, new data from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Recife, Pernambuco State, suggests a more common species called the Culex mosquito may also be transmitting the virus. The Zika virus can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. In some cases the virus can also cause Guillain Barre syndrome, a disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system, or microcephaly ( a condition where children are born with abnormally small heads) in babies who were carried by infected mothers.

The ratio of Culex mosquitoes to the Aedes species is over 20 times. Culex Mosquitoes can be found in the Americas, parts of Africa, and parts of Asia. Increasing the chances of a worldwide outbreak. At this time there is no known vaccine or cure for the virus, however scientists are stepping up the efforts to develop one.

Source: Sky News 

Zika Virus: Outbreak ‘Likely to Spread Across Americas’ Says WHO

Compliments of BBC

The Zika virus is likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas, the World Health Organization has warned.

The infection, which causes symptoms including mild fever, conjunctivitis and headache, has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America.

It has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains and some countries have advised women not to get pregnant.

No treatment or vaccine is available.

The virus was first detected in 1947 in monkeys in Africa. There have since been small, short-lived outbreaks in people on the continent, parts of Asia and in the Pacific Islands.

Zika spread

But it has spread on a massive scale in the Americas, where transmission was first detected in Brazil in May 2015.

Large numbers of the mosquitoes which carry the virus and a lack of any natural immunity is thought to be helping the infection to spread rapidly.

Mosquito

Zika is transmitted by the bite of Aedes mosquitoes, which are found in all countries in the region except Canada and Chile.

In a statement, The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional office of the WHO, said: “PAHO anticipates that Zika virus will continue to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found.”

PAHO is advising people to protect themselves from the mosquitoes, which also spread dengue fever and chikungunya.

It also confirmed the virus had been detected in semen and there was “one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission” but further evidence was still needed.

Around 80% of infections do not result in symptoms.

But the biggest concern is the potential impact on babies developing in the womb. There have been around 3,500 reported cases of microcephaly – babies born with tiny brains – in Brazil alone since October.

PAHO warned pregnant women to be “especially careful” and to see their doctor before and after visiting areas affected by the virus.

Graphic showing babies' head size

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica last week recommended women delay pregnancies until more was known about the virus.

Although officially PAHO says “any decision to defer pregnancy is an individual one between a woman, her partner and her healthcare provider”.

Maria Conceicao Queiroz said there was a sense of fear where she lives near the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro: “Every one is at risk, we’re all scared of getting Zika.

“We’re surrounded with dirty water, polluted water, but what can we do but put repellent on, to try to keep the mosquitoes away.”

Global threat

Prof Laura Rodrigues, a fellow of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said some data suggested that up to one-in-fifty babies had birth defects in one of the worst hit areas – Pernambuco state in Brazil.

She said: “Until November we knew nothing, this has caught us by surprise and we’re trying to learn as fast as we can.

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MRSA superbug found in supermarket pork raises alarm over farming risks

Compliments of The Guardian 

Pork sold by several leading British supermarkets has been found to be contaminated with a strain of the superbug MRSA that is linked to the overuse of powerful antibiotics on factory farms, a Guardian investigation has revealed.
Livestock-associated MRSA CC398, which originates in animals, has been found in pork products sold in Sainsbury’s, Asda, the Co-operative and Tesco. Of the 100 packets of pork chops, bacon and gammon tested by the Guardian, nine – eight Danish and one Irish – were found to have been infected with CC398.

CC398 in meat, which poses little risk to the British public, can be transmitted by touching infected meat products or coming into contact with contaminated livestock or people, although it can be killed through cooking.

Many people carry the bacteria without any signs of illness, but some have developed skin complaints, and the bug can cause life-threatening infections, including pneumonia and blood poisoning. Experts warn that the superbug has emerged as a result of antibiotic use in intensive farming and there is evidence that the UK could be at risk of a wider health crisis unless the issue is tackled by the authorities.

The superbug CC398 is a variant of the more commonly known MRSA found in hospitals and is endemic in pig farms in some European countries, particularly Denmark, Europe’s biggest pork producer and a key exporter to the UK. The Guardian tested 74 Danish pork products and 25 British, and one from Ireland.

CC398 is linked to intensive farms, where the density of pigs crowded together becomes a flashpoint for disease, and farmers become reliant on antibiotics to keep animals healthy and alive. This has led to the emergence of CC398, which is resistant to antibiotics.

Two thirds of Denmark’s pig farms are currently infected with CC398, where it is spreading rapidly: 648 people were infected with CC398 in 2013; in 2014, 1,271 people contracted the bug. Of those infected two people died as a result of the infection, and many suffered serious blood poisoning.

None of the British pork tested by the Guardian was infected with CC398, but a similar study carried out by the Alliance to Save Antibiotics, a campaign group which includes the Soil Association, did identify the superbug in pork from British farms. In findings due to be published on Thursday, the Alliance identified the bug in a pork sausage and in a packet of pork mince purchased in the UK. Fifty-two samples of pork from supermarkets in Bristol, Cambridge, London, Northumberland and Surrey were tested by the University of Cambridge on behalf of the Alliance. The findings confirm that CC398 has now spread from British farms into the domestic pork supply chain.

A leading microbiologist has warned Britain to see the situation in Denmark as a warning. “[It] is an epidemic [that’s] out of control in Denmark,” Professor Hans Jørn Kolmos, a microbiologist at the University of Southern Denmark told the Guardian. “[Britain] should be worried about it, you should look at our problems. We should have intervened seven years back when we saw the first cases. Don’t think that this is a problem that will solve itself just by closing your eyes,” he said.

The bug was identified in a pork sausage

 The bug has been identified in a pork sausage, confirming the spread of the infection from British farms. Photograph: Alamy

A Guardian film made during the investigation into infected pork also reveals how CC398 has already crossed the species barrier in the UK. A little-reported study by the University of Edinburgh, published in 2014, found the bug in the umbilical cords of two newborn babies in Scotland.

The Scottish study is thought to be the first confirmation in the UK that the bug has travelled from livestock to humans in Britain, though researchers were not able to explain how the superbug spread and there is nothing to suggest the babies became ill as a result of coming into contact with CC398.

Dr Melissa Ward of Edinburgh University, the study’s lead researcher, told the Guardian: “We were not able to trace the exact source of CC398 for the individual humans in our study. MRSA bacteria can live on the skin of humans and animals, often without causing any symptoms. The bacteria can spread from person to person, and between animals and humans, by close contact such as touching,” she said.

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Officials Worry Ebola Now Being Spread by Unprotected Sex

Compliments of Time Gazette 

Health officials believe that survivors of Ebola can spread the virus through having unprotected sex up to twice as long as was previously believed. Officials are telling male survivors of Ebola to avoid any unprotected sex for an indefinite period. Scientist thought the virus could remain for three months in the semen of an infected person. However, recently a case took place in West Africa that suggests infection through unprotected sex could happen for up to five months or longer.

Couple using badge to support AIDS or breast cancer, in this image the ribbon is red for AIDS support cause. PS : you can change the ribbon color to pink for breast cancer support as both using the same symbol

Using that case as an example, officials are telling male survivors of Ebola to avoid any unprotected sex for an indefinite period. The officials said that they previously had advised that the men wore condoms for up to three months.

On Friday, a report was released that detailed the case of a Liberian woman who was 44 and whose infection is likely to have come from a man who is 46 and who had symptoms of Ebola in September of 2014.

She became ill during March in just a week following sex with the man and died. Another woman that he had sex with close to the same time was tested and her results were negative.

The virus spreads via direct contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an Ebola patient, such as saliva, urine, sweat or semen.

Once a patient recovers, health officials have said they are not contagious except there remains a chance it remains in the semen.

Investigations of recent cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have pointed toward sexual transmission from Ebola survivors, but there has been no confirmation on those cases.

However, there have been less than 10 of these cases, said a Center for Disease Control spokesperson. It has been difficult pin pointing that sexual relations was the only way that they might have been infected with the virus.

In Guinea the national coordinator for responding to Ebola, said one woman in Macenta a town in the southeast had contracted Ebola following sex that was unprotected with her husband.

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A Colorado pit bull infected humans with the plague

Compliments of The Washington Post 

The U.S.’s largest pneumonic plague outbreak in nearly a century has been identified, and it all started with a sick dog.

That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control, which just announced the results of an investigation into a small but surprising plague outbreak in rural Colorado last year. Four cases of pneumonic plague (a form of disease that affects the lungs rather than causing the more notorious boils) were found to have originated with an infected pit bull — a first in the U.S. Typically the disease is spread via bites from fleas carried by prairie dogs and other rodents, not from contact with household pets.

The source wasn’t the only unusual thing about this outbreak. The CDC also found that one of the cases may have resulted from human-to-human transmission, something that hasn’t happened in the States since 1924.

There’s no need to break out your plague doctor mask — the disease these days is a far cry from the brutal “Black Death” of the Middle Ages. The CDC reports an average of about 8 cases per year in the U.S., and modern medicine means they’re almost never fatal. All of the patients in this outbreak (except the dog) were treated with antibiotics and have made a full recovery.

Still, pneumonic plague is scary and unpleasant, to say the least, and this is the largest outbreak to happen in the States in 90 years, according to NPR. Understanding how it came about can help health workers cope with future cases.

It started all started when a 2-year-old pit bull terrier came down with a fever last June. Its jaw was rigid, drool dripped from its mouth and it began to cough up mucus tinged with blood. After an overnight stay at a vet clinic, the dog was humanely put down, ending a sad but seemingly short-lived ordeal for its owner.

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BILL APPROVED TO REQUIRE CALIFORNIA SCHOOLCHILDREN TO BE VACCINATED

Compliments of ABC

Opponents of a proposal that would require California schoolchildren to be vaccinated vowed to continue their fight after a Senate committee overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday.

The Senate Education Committee voted 7-2 on the bill by Sen. Richard Pan, a Democratic pediatrician from Sacramento, with votes from both Democrats and Republicans.

The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing next week as part of a long legislative process.

“We will continue to show our strength, and we will continue to educate lawmakers and the public about why this is a bad bill,” said Jean Keese, a spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Health Choice.

The proposal was among several drafted across the nation in the wake of a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and sickened more than 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico.

It would eliminate California’s personal-belief and religious exemptions so unvaccinated children would not be able to attend public or private schools. Medical waivers would only be available for children who have health problems.

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New Study Claims: Autism shown to have no link to measles vaccine

Compliments of CNBC

“Controversy seems to follow autism like the tail on a kite,” Dr. Bryan King, a researcher at Seattle Children’s Autism Center and the University of Washington, wrote in an editorial published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

One that should be put to bed is any connection between autism spectrum disorder and the measles vaccine, according to a separate study published Tuesday in JAMA. It’s the latest of at least a dozen studies, according to King, to show no connection.

Researchers examined data on more than 95,000 kids with older siblings, including almost 2,000 with an older sibling with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), to assess risk among those already at higher likelihood of developing autism because of a family connection.

They found “no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD,” wrote the study authors, led by Anjali Jain of the Lewin Group, a health-care consulting firm.

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