Saturday, January 13, 2018

Joint Task Force to Those with Egg Allergies. 'Get Your Flu Shot!'

     In the midst of what might turn out to be a particularly destructive flu season there seems to be at least a small glimmer of hope. It comes from the Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters in Allergy and Immunology (JTF), a group founded in 1989 by members of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. After extensive review, the JTF has revised its flu vaccination standards for those with egg allergies, declaring that there is no longer a "need to take any special precautions. The overwhelming evidence since 2011 has shown that a flu shot poses no greater risk to those with egg allergy than those without."
     This ruling comes after decades of concerns that the flu vaccine, which is manufactured using chicken eggs, would be unsafe for people with allergies to egg proteins, as those proteins are found in small quantities in the vaccine. However, now that multiple studies have failed to show any higher risk of negative reaction to the flu vaccine in people with even severe egg allergies, it appears that the vaccine is completely safe for use in this population.
     These new guidelines will likely slightly increase the overall rate of flu vaccination, as those with egg allergies will no longer face any restrictions when receiving their flu shots. In addition young children, most likely to have egg allergies, are also the population most at risk from the flu, so this change to the guidelines seems poised to extend the protection for this vulnerable section of the population.
   - J. Cole Holderman
    News Article

Quick, Cheap, and Effective Test Can Tell if a Patient Has a Viral Respiratory Infection

      Researchers at Yale University have discovered a method of broadly detecting viral infections quickly, easily, and for low cost. A paper in the Journal of Infectious Disease published last month details their efforts to design and evaluate the test, which is 97% effective at detecting the presence of a viral respiratory infection.
     The test works by evaluating a patient's nasal swab for levels of 3 RNAs and 2 proteins, selected because they are produced in high concentrations only by patients experiencing a viral respiratory infection. Author Ellen Foxman MD put it succinctly in an interview with Science Daily.  "Instead of looking for individual viruses, our test asks the question: 'Is the body fighting a virus?'"
          In the future this test may allow doctors to better discern between viral and bacterial infections, limiting the overuse of antibiotics and narrowing down the possible causes of illness in a patient. Researchers believe they can bring the technique to market in 1-5 years, which is remarkably fast for this type of diagnostic. Hopefully progress is swift in its ongoing development.
       -J. Cole Holderman
News Article

Thursday, January 11, 2018

‘Moderately Severe,’ Flu Season in U.S.

The flu season in the U.S. is being labeled 'moderately severe'. This is an designation of increased urgency compared to a lull of "mild" flu seasons following the 2008-2009 H1N1 pandemic flu season.

This season's flu is particularly concerning because the circulating strain, H3N2, has been shown to be more deadly to the elderly and very young from the recent flu season in Australia. This is particularly concerning because the vaccine was shown to have only a 10% efficacy in Australia, and it is the same vaccine we are currently using against the same predominating strain.

This low efficacy is not primarily due to any significant shift or drift event in the circulating virus. It is actually due to drift in the vaccine virus that has accrued mutations not relevant to the human virus. This development has elicited new cries for a universal flu vaccine.

'Moderately Severe,' Flu Season in the U.S.


Measles Deaths Fall to a Record Low Worldwide

The World Health Organization just released the figures on measles mortality, and it's good news. 2016 was the first year that mortality due to measles fell under 100,000. The official figures count 89,780 measles-related deaths in 2016.

We can attribute this fall in measles deaths to the efforts of many NGOs like Gavi: the vaccine alliance and its many donors. Through the last decade, efforts have been made to establish the measles vaccine in many countries that previously did not routinely administer the vaccine. Now, many of the countries are supplying the vaccine to their citizens on their own dime rather than on the money of donors.

The recent news is a step in the right direction for the measles-eradication cause. However, low immunization rates among both developed and developing nations are threatening this vision. Wealthy pockets of the U.S. and many western European nations have experienced resurgences of measles outbreaks in recent years due to low immunization rates. The recent news is good news, but the real question is whether or not we will be able to keep up the progress.

Measles Deaths Fall to a Record Low Worldwide


Trump Ends Terms of Remaining Members of H.I.V. and AIDS Council

The HIV & AIDS Council was established in 1995 under the Clinton presidency to advise on matters concerning the viral illness which, at the time, was not yet as manageable with drugs as it is now. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans living with HIV, and thousands who have yet to discover their HIV positive status. Efforts by the council in recent years have been focusing on a plan to make HIV testing universal in the U.S. as well as increasing access to anti-retroviral drugs for those who need them.

On Dec 30, 2017 current President Trump dismissed the remaining 6 members of the HIV and AIDS council. Prior to this dismissal, a number of council members had resigned in protest. They cited inaction, lack of an action plan, and withdrawal of funding for existing programs as reasons for their departure.

Removal and replacement of council members are typical after the change of a presidency. In the beginning of the 2008 Obama term, Obama ended the terms of Bush's previous council and replaced them with his own appointments. The white house has made it clear that members are welcome to reapply in 2018.

Trump Ends Terms of Remaining Members of H.I.V. and AIDS Council


Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Circulating Vaccine-Derived Polio Virus and Wild Type Poliovirus Cases

Recently, there has been new cases of Circulating Vaccine-Derived Polio Virus 2 (cVDPV2) reported in the Manono and the Ankoro districts of in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the onset dates where November 9th and November 17th (one reported case in each) according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). There had been no cVDPV2 cases for months now, and for the year, the total number of cases of cVDPV2 in the Democratic Republic of Congo has now reached 12 cases, which will probably be the number for the year considering how close this year is to ending (about time). So how exactly do cVDVs occur in the first place? Well, in the DNC, oral polio virus vaccine made from a weak live-attenuated vaccine is used where the virus replicates in the intestines. In the intestines, the poliovirus is excreted for 6-8 weeks, and during that time, some of the excreted virus may not be the same as the vaccine poliovirus. What ends up happening is that this new vaccine-derived poliovirus, if given the right environment where a population has immunization rates that are low, the vaccine-derived poliovirus can circulate, mutate, and potentially retain its original neurovirulence. These polioviruses that have reobtained their pathogenicity are the cVDPVs.

Additionally, the GPEI has made a report this week regarding wild poliovirus 1 in Pakistan. As a side note, the three remaining countries where wild-type poliovirus is still endemic around the globe are Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. This case took place in the Kila Abdullah district, where the total number of WPV1 cases in Pakistan have now reached 8 cases for 2017, where the total number of cases for the year is now 20.


-Daniel Gutierrez

Friday, December 29, 2017

Top 10 Infectious Disease Outbreaks of 2017

Before the year end let’s rewind and go over the 10 biggest infectious disease outbreaks of 2017.
10. Multidrug Resistant Camplybacter Infections harbored by puppies
            12 US states (Utah, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Florida, etc.) were affected and 97 people were infected. Puppies are the outbreak source and the bacteria is resistant to first-line antibiotics, making infection difficult to treat.
9. Legionnairses’ Disease outbreak at the “happiest place on earth”
            Legionella, is found in water. The Disneyland outbreak was caused from 2 cooling towers at the New Orleans Square Train Stations part of the park. 12 people infected, 1 death.
8. H7N9 Avian Influenza returned to China
The 5th epidemic of Asian H7N9 hit China again. 764 human cases reported and H7N9 is rated to have the greatest pandemic potential
7. Diphtheria in Bangladesh
Through not common in the US, Diphtheria, caused by bacteria, is common around the world. Outbreak occurred in Bangladesh in Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. There are over 804 suspected cases and 15 deaths.
6. E coli O157: H7 Infections linked with SoyNut Butter in the US  
E coli outbreak in 12 states, 32 individuals affected, no deaths reported. Source of outbreak was the I.M. Health brand SoyNut Butter.
5. Cholera in Yemen
WHO reported 994,751 suspected cases in Yemen, 1069 confirmed, and 2,226 deaths.
4. Marburg Virus in Uganda
This zoonotic virus causes Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, and although rare, it broke out in Easter Uganda on October 17, infecting and claiming the lived of 3. No vaccine or specific treatment is available.
3. Salmonella Infections linked with Maradol papayas in the US
23 US states affected, salmonella found in papayas imported from Carica de Campeche farm in Tenabo, Mexico. 220 individuals infected and one resulting death. All outbreaks have been resolved in the US.
2. The Black Death in Madagascar
Appeared August 2017, 335 cases of bubonic plague, 1 septicemic plague, and 207 cases are unclassified but WHO had reported on December 4, 2017, that the outbreak is no contained.
Last but not least at number 1, 
Hepatitis A in the US
Biggest Hepatitis A outbreak occurred September 2017 in San Diego, most of whom infected are homeless or illicit drug users. In response to controlling the outbreak, health officials have increased vaccination efforts to at-risk individuals. Latest update of the outbreak was on December 19 2017, reporting 571 cases and 20 deaths in San Diego. Other cities such as Los Angeles and Santa Cruz have also bene affected.

On a sidenote, Happy New Year everyone! 


Jessica Ngo