Highlights include H1N1 in Texas, 59 people with TB, a H7N9 fatality, H5N2 in ostriches, and vaccines coming to a mountain train near you. Happy Friday, and as our last Pandora Report from 2013, Happy New Year!
H1N1 Causes Early Spikes in Flu Cases
The flu season is in full swing, a couple weeks earlier than expected, with five deaths in Texas already. Luckily, the vaccine for this year’s flu contains the H1N1 strain currently predominant. Everyone please get vaccinated!
KUT – “‘[H1N1] is actually in the vaccines this year. So we’re finding that people who have been vaccinated, even if they come down with the illness, have a less severe course of it,’ Hydari said. He added that vaccine shortages that complicated flu season in the past is not an issue this year. Hydari also said that flu vaccines take about two weeks to take affect, and because the flu season typically peaks in January it’s not too late to get a shot this year.”
Dozens Test Positive For Tuberculosis After Exposure at Hospital Neonatal Unit
Fifty-nine people have tested positive for TB following exposure at a hospital in Nevada. A mother and her newborn twins are thought to have brought the bacteria to the hospital over the summer. All three died in the hospital, and were not discovered to have TB until after an autopsy was performed on the mother. Following hospital staff falling ill, and 977 people potentially exposed and subsequently tested, just two had active infections – the 59 mentioned above are latent cases. TB is still very real, and very scary – as this case illustrates, as few as three people can potentially infect dozens.
ABC – “‘Unfortunately, this situation is a hospital epidemiologist’s worst nightmare as neonates are highly susceptible to contracting TB and their infections can progress quite rapidly,’ he said. A mother and her newborn twins died of tuberculosis at Summerlin Hospital over the summer, prompting an investigation by the Southern Nevada Health District. Hospital staff didn’t realize the infected woman had tuberculosis until after she and one of the twins died and they performed an autopsy, according to KTNV, ABC’s Las Vegas affiliate. The other twin was in the NICU being treated without being under quarantine. The second twin also tested positive for tuberculosis and died in August, health department spokeswoman Stephanie Bethel told ABCNews.com.”
Hong Kong confirms first death from H7N9 bird flu
An eighty-year old male has died from H7N9 in Hong Kong. Still, no confirmed, sustained person-to-person transmission yet.
Reuters – “The man, the second person in Hong Kong to be diagnosed with the virus strain, lived in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and had eaten poultry there, media reported. The H7N9 strain was first reported in humans in February in mainland China, and has infected at least 139 people in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, killing more than 40. Experts say there is no evidence of any easy or sustained human-to-human transmission of H7N9, and so far all people who came into contact with the man had tested negative for the strain, authorities said.”
Low Pathogenic Bird Flu in Western Cape Ostriches
Small outbreaks of H5N2 have been reported in South African ostriches. The low pathogenic influenza strain has been reported in seven farms and roughly 2,000 birds. Authorities remain uncertain as to the source of the outbreaks.
Poultry Site – “The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) received follow-up report no. 4 on 23 December. The report states that the affected population comprises commercial ostriches. A total of 10,171 birds were involved, out of which 2,230 tested positive for the virus. None died or been destroyed. According to the OIE’s Animal Health Information Department, H5 and H7 avian influenza in its low pathogenic form in poultry is a notifiable disease as per Chapter 10.4. on avian influenza of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code (2013).”
Keeping Vaccines Fresh
Apparently silicon packets can keep more than your new shoes fresh – scientists at the University of Portland have managed to preserve virus pathogenicity over time by coating the little zombies in a layer of silica. Some viruses subsequently cleansed of the silica coating retained infectivity. While this apparently means viruses may actually be able to survive inside volcanoes (we definitely feel there’s a movie in this somewhere), it also is good news for developing vaccines for use in places lacking widespread refrigeration.
New York Times – “Most vaccines are made of weakened virus or viral bits, and many need refrigeration. Keeping them cold is a major challenge when it comes to protecting children living in villages without electricity.’It’s hard to put a fridge on the back of a donkey,’ said Kenneth M. Stedman, a biologist at Portland State and the lead author of the study. By recreating the chemical-laden hot-spring environment, Dr. Stedman’s team coated four types of virus with silica, stored them, then washed off the silica and tried to infect cells. One heavily studied virus, phage T4, which infects the cells of E. coli bacteria, retained 90 percent of its infectivity for almost a month. The virus used in smallpox vaccines also did well, but it is naturally able to be stored dry.”