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News Reports for December 13, 2012

by: NewsDiary

Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 14:30:14 PM EST


Reminder: Please do not post whole articles, just snippets and links, and do not post articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Thanks!

Indonesia
Bird Flu Alert in Indonesia (Link)
• Identifies New Strain of Bird Flu (Link)

United States
• US: HHS offers some forecasts on medical countermeasures (Link)
• KY: Health officials: Flu levels 'widespread' in Kentucky (Link)
• MI: Flu shots urged amid reports of spike in Michigan influenza cases (Link)
• PA: Flu beats the holiday rush, hits Poconos already (Link)
• PA: Reported area flu cases on the rise (Link)
• RI: Health department declares flu emergency  (Link)

Research
• New coronavirus can infect cells from multiple species (Link)
• Study finds substantial flu virus shedding even without symptoms (Link)

General
• Public health infrastructure key to fighting pandemics, outbreaks: review (Link)

Commentary
• Maryn McKenna: The New Coronavirus - More Cases, More Deaths, Unclear Transmission (Link)


• H (Link)

NewsDiary :: News Reports for December 13, 2012

News for December 12, 2012 is here.


Thanks to all of the newshounds!
Special thanks to the newshound volunteers who translate international stories - thanks for keeping us all informed!

Other useful links:
WHO A(H1N1) Site
WHO H5N1 human case totals, last updated August 10, 2012
Charts and Graphs on H5N1 from WHO
Google Flu Trends
CDC Weekly Influenza Summary
Map of seasonal influenza in the U.S.
CIDPC (Canada) Weekly FluWatch
UK RCGP Weekly Data on Communicable and Respiratory Diseases
Flu Wiki

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US: Health department declares flu emergency (Rhode Island)
Dr. Michael Fine, director of the state Department of Health, issued a warning last week saying that there are widespread incidences of the flu statewide. The declaration triggers Rhode Island's new regulations requiring all healthcare workers who have not been immunized to wear a surgical mask during direct patient contact.

"Flu is here in Rhode Island, and all signs indicate that this flu season is expected to be more severe than those in recent past," said Fine. "We encourage all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and those around them by being immunized against influenza. Our healthcare workers have an obligation to protect those they care for by getting immunized or wearing a mask as required by the Department of Health's regulations." Continued: http://www.jamestownpress.com/...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


US: Flu beats the holiday rush, hits Poconos already (Pennsylvania)
There has been a significant rise in influenza activity across Pennsylvania since Thanksgiving and the Poconos are not immune.

Flu activity has increased from "sporadic" to "widespread" throughout the state, which means that at least half of the state's regions are experiencing outbreaks of influenza, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said.

The flu arrived earlier this year than most years. Widespread flu activity in Pennsylvania is not usually seen until January. It is unknown why the flu arrived early, health officials said.

This year's influenza strain, type A H3N2, is considered a more powerful strain and can cause severe illness, especially in the elderly. Continued: http://www.poconorecord.com/ap...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


US: Reported area flu cases on the rise (Pennsylvania)
WILKES-BARRE - Reported flu cases have spiked in recent weeks, but state and local health officials say there is still time to get vaccinated.

The state Department of Health reported Wednesday there has been a significant rise in influenza activity across Pennsylvania since Thanksgiving.

The department said flu activity has increased from sporadic to widespread throughout the state, meaning at least half of the state's regions are experiencing outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illness.

According to a release from the health department, the flu made an earlier appearance this year, as widespread activity is usually not seen until January.

The number of cases reported to the state more than doubled in the past week. Luzerne County saw a spike in cases recently, going from 10 total cases to 18 reported in one week. Continued: http://www.timesleader.com/sto...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


[ Parent ]
US: Health officials: Flu levels 'widespread' in Kentucky
EDGEWOOD, Ky. - The Kentucky Department for Public Health reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the influenza activity level in the commonwealth has increased from "regional" to "widespread." Widespread is the classification used for the highest level of flu activity.

The new classification is exactly what physicians are seeing right now in Northern Kentucky. The Northern Kentucky Health Department reports the number of flu cases it has seen has doubled since Dec. 3. "We went from 45 last week to 93," Director of Clinical Services Jennifer Hunter said. Continued: http://www.kypost.com/dpps/new...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


US: Flu shots urged amid reports of spike in Michigan influenza cases
PONTIAC, MI -- Local health officials are urging residents to get flu shots after state and federal reports of an increase in Michigan influenza cases.

The Michigan Department of Community Health has upgraded flu activity in the state from "sporadic" to "local," and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a rapid increase in Michigan, according to the Oakland County Health Division. Continued: http://www.mlive.com/news/detr...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


CIDRAP: New coronavirus can infect cells from multiple species
Dec 11, 2012 (CIDRAP News) - Experiments on the novel coronavirus that has infected patients from three Middle Eastern countries show that the receptor it uses to infect human cells is different from the one used by its relative the SARS virus and that it can infect cells from a range of animals, according to a study released today.

Both findings have implications for public health, as experts rush to assess the threat and develop tools to battle the emerging virus, which has so far led infected at least 9 people, causing 5 deaths, in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan. The study was conducted by researchers from Germany and the Netherlands and appears today in mBio, the online journal of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).

The virus, called hCoV-EMC, has been linked to two illness clusters, including one that involved healthcare workers at a Jordanian hospital. All of the patients with confirmed infections had pneumonia, and several had severe renal complications.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said recently that though the case clusters raise the possibility of human-to-human transmission, so far there is too little information to confirm or rule it out. Regardless, concerns about transmission risk have prompted intensive monitoring of close contacts of case-patients and reminders about steps to protect healthcare workers.

Christian Drosten, MD, lead author of the study and director of the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Centre in Germany, said in an ASM press release today, "This virus is closely related to the SARS virus, and looking at the clinical picture, it causes the same pattern of disease."

One question the research team wanted to explore was whether the hCoV-EMC and SARS viruses use the same receptor to enter human cells. The SARS virus uses the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, which is mainly found on pneumocytes deep in human lungs. Drosten said individuals needed to inhale great numbers of SARS viruses for enough to reach deep into the lungs and take root, a factor that limited its spread mainly to healthcare workers and people who lived in overcrowded housing in Hong Kong.

The researchers found that hCoV-EMC clearly does not use ACE2, Drosten said in the press release But the virus could use another, still-unknown receptor in human lungs that is easier to access and could make the virus more infectious than SARS, he added.

In the second part of the study, the group conducted a set of experiments to shed light on how the virus might have originated and moved between humans and animals. Genetic sequencing of an hCoV-EMC sample from a Saudi man who died in June showed that the virus most closely resembles coronaviruses found in bats. Some of the patients with confirmed infections had visited farms before they got sick.

Drosten said the SARS virus changed after it jumped from bats to civets to humans, rendering it unable to infect bats again. However, he said researchers were surprised to see that hCoV-EMC can infect cells from many different species. The group found that it could enter cells from four major bat families, pigs, and primates. "It's completely unusual for any coronavirus to be able to do that-to go back to its original reservoir," he said.

The team reported that the findings suggests all the animals could share a common receptor, and if the receptor is present on mucosal surfaces such as the lining of the lung, the virus could pass back and forth between animals and humans, making it difficult or even impossible to eliminate.
Continued: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidr...  

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


CIDRAP: HHS offers some forecasts on medical countermeasures
Dec 11, 2012 (CIDRAP News) - A new report from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers a few predictions on when certain new countermeasures against biological threats will become available, including a forecast for two novel influenza drugs and possibly a next-generation anthrax vaccine within the next 5 years.

The 2012 Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures (PHEMCE) Implementation Plan outlines expected developments for the next few years for anthrax, smallpox, pandemic flu, botulism, and other bacterial and viral threats.

It says HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) "will support advanced development of at least two drugs with novel mechanisms of action through Phase III clinical studies; two drugs are expected to be approved in the U.S." in fiscal years 2015 to 2017.

The report also says that two more flu antivirals are expected to be approved in the long term, meaning in fiscal 2018 or later.

The report doesn't name the drugs, but BARDA Director Robin Robinson, PhD, noted that one of the antivirals BARDA is supporting is NexBio's Fludase, also known as DAS181. "This product candidate inhibits a cell surface molecule rather than a viral target like currently licensed flu antiviral drugs," he told CIDRAP News. Continued: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidr...  

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


CIDRAP: Study finds substantial flu virus shedding even without symptoms
In a German study, 30% of patients' tested positive for flu the day before symptoms developed, and asymptomatic patients had about the same viral loads as sick patients, (Snip).

(Snip) They analyzed data from 122 index patients and 320 household contacts, of whom 67 became secondary flu case-patients. Of the 189 case-patients, 12 had seasonal H1N1 flu, 19 had H3N2, 98 had pandemic 2009 H1N1, and 60 had influenza B. Nine (14%) of 65 unvaccinated secondary case-patients-all adults-were asymptomatic. Viral loads in patients' nasal specimens peaked on day 1, 2, or 3 for all flu strains, then declined steadily till days 7 through 9.

On the day before symptom onset, 12 of 40 specimens (30%) were positive. Viral load in six asymptomatic patients was similar to that in those having symptoms. Infectiousness, as measured by viral culture, lasted 4 to 6 days after symptom onset, and viral load did not seem to be influenced by antiviral therapy, age, or vaccination status (Snip).

(Snip) "Asymptomatic/subclinical infections occur infrequently, but may be associated with substantial amounts of viral shedding."  http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidr...

Dec 11 PLoS One study http://www.plosone.org/article...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


CIDRAP: Public health infrastructure key to fighting pandemics, outbreaks: review
(Snip)

A team of US scientists reviewed 197 internationally significant outbreaks from 1996 through 2009 and identified driving factors that contributed to each. They found that a breakdown or absence of public health infrastructure was the driving factor in 39.5% of the outbreaks, and that all other driving factors-such as climate change, urbanization, and international travel and trade-accounted for less than 10% of outbreaks.

They conclude: "We suggest a central role for development agencies in pandemic prevention and highlight three critical policy issues." The team suggests that agencies (1) develop policies that deal with different stages of emergence, from spillover and localized outbreaks to pandemic spread, (2) use a systems approach to pandemic prevention that addresses pathogen dynamics at the intersection of people and their environment, and (3) shift funding from short-term emergency funds to a longer-term strategy. http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidr...

Dec 11 PLoS Med review http://www.plosmedicine.org/ar...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Bird Flu Alert in Indonesia
December 13, 2012
http://www.bangkokpost.com/bre...
Indonesia:  Indonesian authorities have stepped up bird flu monitoring after thousands of poultry have died on Java island in recent months, officials said Wednesday.  A strain of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus was believed to have caused the deaths among poultry in Jakarta and other areas, said Emil Agustiono, the head of the National Zoonosis Committee.

"We are investigating whether the source of the outbreak were imported poultry,'' he said. "If it came from one source, it will be easier to contain.  We must remain vigilant and step up biosecurity to prevent its spread."

No humans had been infected by the latest strain detected on Java, said the Health Ministry's director for disease control, Tjandra Yoga Aditama.  He said the same mutation had also been found in Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."  Thomas Jefferson


Indonesia Identifies New Strain of Bird Flu
December 13, 2012
http://www.voanews.com/content...
Jakarta, Indonesia:  Almost half of those who have died from avian flu have been in Indonesia. And, although it might seem as though bird flu has gone unnoticed, a new virulent strain has been found on the Indonesian island of Java.  In recent weeks, more than 300,000 ducks have died on the densely populated island of Java. The government has since confirmed the deaths were caused by a new and highly pathogenic strain of H5N1, or bird flu.  Dr. Rita M. Ridwan, the director of disease control at the Indonesian Health Ministry, says the government is working closely with relevant ministries to investigate further.

"So we are in close contact by sharing information, sharing the virus lab and even working together in the field to do field investigations," Ridwan explained.  "I know there are very alarming deaths in the duck population, mostly in the center of duck production by the traditional farming as well as in central Java and East Java."
(snip)

"We the experts, the researchers are still trying to find the answer," the doctor admitted.  "Why? Is that because Indonesians is too late coming to the health services?  Is it because the virus itself so virulent.  Or others things. Our researchers are still trying to answer this."
(more)


"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."  Thomas Jefferson


Wired: The New Coronavirus: More Cases, More Deaths, Unclear Transmission
The New Coronavirus: More Cases, More Deaths, Unclear Transmission
There's lots of news to catch up with regarding the new coronavirus that emerged last summer in the Middle East and has been causing concern to international health authorities all autumn: additional cases, additional deaths, and new lab evidence that is more than a little concerning.

First: The case count has now risen from six to nine. One of those cases, we knew about already; it is the remaining person in the Saudi family cluster announced last month, whose case analysis was pending. But the other two are newly uncovered, and interesting: They are from a group of 11 health care workers and patients who fell ill in Jordan back in April. A correspondent to the mailing list ProMED actually raised a question about this cluster when the first known cases were disclosed. At the time, the cases were ruled to be not caused by coronavirus - but as the new virus had not yet been recognized, the test used was for known coronaviruses. The victims were negative on that test, but positive when a retest on their stored samples, using the new assay, was done recently.

Sadly, all three of these new cases died - so not only has the case count risen, but the fatality count has also, to 5 out of 9. Though we have only a few cases, that is still a case-fatality rate of more than 50 percent. By contrast, the case-fatality rate of SARS, the last novel coronavirus to trouble public health, was less than 10 percent.


More at the link. Via Branswell on Twitter.

nasty ILI in Hilo
I've been fighting a nasty deep cough for about 6 weeks now. As a school teacher, I have observed this ILI spreading throughout the school as more and more students and teachers are exhibiting the same deep cough. Interestingly, it doesn't have much else going in the way of symptoms: little to no fever, a slight runny nose, that's about it. I don't find anything on the news about it, and wonder if anyone knows what kind of bug this might be.

Always have a plan B.

It sounds like viral bronchitis
and I think several different viruses can cause that. I hope you feel better soon.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


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