Just a quick note that the Biodefense Policy Seminars are back on! Our February speaker is Charles Duelfer, former Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence for Iraq WMD and former Deputy Executive Chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM). Free and open to the public – click here for more information!
Highlights include Salmonella, H5N1 in Canada, H7N9 picking up in China, and Chikungunya in St. Martin. Happy Friday!
Why Salmonella bacteria is a near perfect killer
Much like an action film protagonist, Salmonella biofilms are notoriously difficult to kill. According to new research from the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, once Salmonella bacteria are able to form biofilms on a given surface, three different common disinfectants all are rendered ineffective. Salmonella’s ongoing hardiness explains in part the difficulty in effectively containing outbreaks.
ANI – “Mary Corcoran, a researcher on the study, said that they found that it was not possible to kill the Salmonella cells using any of the three disinfectants if the biofilm was allowed to grow for seven days before the disinfectant was applied, asserting that even soaking the biofilms in disinfectant for an hour and a half failed to kill them.”
H5N1 strain from Alberta nurse resembles Chinese strain
The strain of H5N1 which killed a nurse in Canada closely resembles a Chinese strain of the virus. The nurse, in her early 20s, had recently returned from a three-week visit to Beijing. However, as she had no reported contact with poultry, and Beijing has not reported any recent outbreaks of H5N1, the source of infection and method of transmission remain unclear.
CBC – “Virologist Kevin Fonseca of Alberta Health Services and his colleagues said the patient experienced symptoms of malaise, chest pain, and fever during the return flight on Dec. 27 and went to the local emergency department on Dec. 28…After a chest X-ray and CT scan suggested a diagnosis of pneumonia, the woman was prescribed an antibiotic and discharged home. The patient came back to the same emergency department on Jan. 1 with worsening inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lung, chest pain, shortness of breath, a mild headache that felt worse when she moved her head, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms, Fonseca’s team said in their posting on ProMed, an internet-based disease alert system. On Jan. 2, the patient reported visual changes and a continuing headache. As oxygen needs increased, doctors admitted her to the ICU for intubation and ventilation. In the early morning of Jan. 3, she had sudden tachycardia or fast heart rate and severe hypertension, followed by hypotension. Doctors took steps to keep her heart beating. At this point, the patient’s pupils were dilated and there was no response to pain. Further tests and a neurologic exam indicated brain death.”
New cases put H7N9 pace near last year’s peak
The number of H7N9 cases in China are picking up again, with nearly 35 cases reported in the last week. This is just three under peak numbers during the height of the infection at the virus’ initial emergence. Health officials monitoring the situation remain split on the implications of the increased numbers – however, the prevailing opinion seems to be that as long as the virus remains poorly transmitted between people, we don’t panic.
CIDRAP – “The steady stream of new cases could mean that Chinese health officials are better at detecting cases, but he added that it doesn’t look like they missed many cases last year in the early months of the outbreak. ‘There must be a similar widespread circulation in poultry,’ said Osterholm, who is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News, Recent H7N9 developments raise questions about what’s being done to minimize the risks to humans and should be setting off bells, whistles, and sirens warning about the threat, he said. ‘Each one [case] is another throw at the genetic roulette table’.”
Chikungunya virus spreads in Caribbean just weeks after breaking out in tiny St. Martin
In the two weeks since Chikungunya made it to the Caribbean, it has quickly spread to over 200 people. The virus can cause febrility, joint pain, and intense myalgia. Trouble in paradise (it had to be said)?
FOX – “The virus then spread to neighboring Dutch St. Maarten, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says new cases have also been confirmed in the French Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Barthelemy. The British Virgin Islands reported three cases Monday. CDC epidemiologist Erin Staples said Tuesday that ‘further spread to other Caribbean islands and to the surrounding mainland areas is possible in the coming months and years’.”