Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Developments in Zika Virus Vaccine for Pregnant Women

In 2016, Zika was one of the hottest news topics in the world. Now, just a little over two years later, we barely hear anything about this virus. However, scientists are still working to develop a vaccine or treatment, especially for pregnant women, to help prevent the potentially debilitating effects of the virus (i.e. microcephaly).

Researchers at the University of Liverpool and Public Health England have started a £4.7 million project to develop a "ready to use" Zika vaccine for pregnant women who suspect they have been infected. It is very difficult to give pregnant women vaccines for safety reasons for both the mother and the child so the project will be challenging. However, this group is committed to developing a safe vaccine to prevent fetal abnormalities. They plan on creating a vaccine that is derived from a smallpox vaccine no longer in use. While this vaccine may take many years to be officially in use, the promise of potentially saving many lives of babies yet to be born is exciting.



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mumps Among Cheerleaders?

Last month, over 24,000 people gathered in the Convention Center in Dallas for an international cheerleading competition. All of these people just received letters saying they may have been exposed to Mumps over the weekend due to the recent evidence that one of the competitors recently came down with the virus. The virus is spread through saliva and mucus so it is hard to say who may have been infected. The good news is, while there is not a treatment for Mumps, it is generally not a very serious viral infection and presents itself in a fever, headaches, and swollen cheeks.

Most people are vaccinated against Mumps in the MMR vaccine. However, the efficacy of the vaccine can decrease over time. The cheerleaders who have already received two doses are being advised to get another booster vaccine within the next few days just for cautionary measures. For, while Chris Van Deusen of the Texas Department of State Health Services states that "For the vast majority of people, the risk is very, very low," there is still the possibility of severe infections of encephalitis. Additionally, Mumps can easily spread to immunocompromised individuals causing even worse infection. Whether or not this virus will spread to other states or even countries is not yet certain, but over the next few days keep your eyes out for a story in the news suggesting more people are showing signs of infection!


- Alexandra

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hanta Virus Epidemic in Buenos Aires

   Public health officials in Argentina are reporting 10 more cases of Hantavirus this year than they saw in all of 2017.  Their alarm came after another woman was reported dead from the virus in a subdivision of Buenos Aires, the capital city.
    The Argentinean health department is warning people about rodents and the risks associated with sweeping up rodent feces, in a public health campaign.  They recommend cleaning all surfaces with bleach and using a handkerchief when cleaning. Their worry comes from the fact that most cases of hantavirus are spread from inhalation of the virus from rodent feces.
   The main vector in Argentina are long tailed rats.  The public health department is trying to also reduce human contact with these rats by telling people to close their doors and fill in any holes in their homes. 
      Hanta virus is not just a problem in Argentina, but also occurs in other arid areas in the Americas.  In the United States there are usually between 40 and 50 cases a year, most of which are clustered around the four corners region.   of Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. 
      Recent research has focussed on how environmental change has affected hantavirus transmission. There is thought that the increase of rain during an el niƱo year can increase the amount of plant production and therefore the rodent population in the area.  When there are more rodents there is more chance of having human rodent contact and more Hantaan virus can be spread around.   

- Chris Leboa


Measles increases by 400 percent across Europe

Measles a disease that was one ubiquitous globally and one of the world's leading causes of death, declined in prevalence dramatically  during the later half of the 20th century. In 2010 the European
Union all signed a pact that they would work to eliminate measles from the continent by 2020.

Eliminating measles from Europe and the world is a public health priority because measles a highly contagious  and virulent pathogen.  Measles causes a high fever, headache, malaise, rash and in some cases (especially those with a Vitiamin A deficiency, death.
In the 1950s and 60s measles was a ubiquitous disease, causing an especially large outbreak every couple of years. In those outbreak years there were between three and four million deaths. 

In 1963 however, a highly effective measles vaccine was licensed. The vaccine, which has an efficiency of over 97%, has greatly reduced the prevalence of disease.

 Measles was totally eliminated from the United States by the year 2000, and was reduced to just a couple thousand cases all across Europe. The reductions were not to last.

Anti-vaxxer's led by Jenne McCarthy and others convinced people that the measles vaccine was linked to autism (which it is not). Millions did not get their vaccines. With a larger susceptible population, measles made a comeback and last year infected over 21,000 people across Europe. 

That represents over a 400% increase in disease prevalence over the last year. 

- Chris

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

That's Not the Flu –– It's Hanta!!

Even though it feels like flu season may be dying down near you, across the country it is by no means going away just yet. However, there is evidence to suggest that not all of these cases are actually being caused by the Influenza virus. In Arizona, a 27 year old woman tested negatively for flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis after coming to the doctor with symptoms such as a shortness of breath weeks after her first visit. And the illness was only progressing. Finally, a test came back positive: Hantavirus.

Hantavirus are not very common and only about 700 cases have been found in the US since 1993 but have the potential to cause a sometimes fatal infection called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (~40% fatality rate). The virus is transmitted from rodents (through urine, feces, or nesting areas) and found primarily in the western and central areas of the United States. Doctors presumed that the woman from Arizona had the flu because the symptoms of an illness similar to a hantavirus infection resemble those of the flu (fever, body aches, nausea, fatigue, etc.). However, later the infection progresses to shortness of breath because the lungs begin to fill with fluid. It is unclear how the infected woman from Arizona acquired the virus but she is currently in intense care in New Mexico in an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine to help pump blood through an artificial lung outside of the body and then add it back to the body. Her conditions appear to be improving. However, this story is just another reminder that it is not just the flu circulating around the country. Physicians need to be careful to not become complacent to simply diagnosing the flu upon first glance because it may be the most common and easiest diagnosis.



Saturday, February 24, 2018

Mass Vaccination to Control Hepatitis A Outbreak has lead to a Vaccine Shortage

    The United States is in the midst of a nationwide epidemic of Hepatitis A: an acute viral disease spread through contaminated food and water.  Over the course of the last year, Hep A has spread rapidly through homeless populations in city centers across the country. 
     The outbreak began in San Diego where there were over 300 cases and the city created extensive vaccination and sanitation campaigns throughout the city.  This blog has previously covered the initial outbreak and response in more detail. 
     However the outbreak was not contained to just California or even the West Coast.   Cases have spread to Utah, Pennsylvania and many other states.
    The outbreak in Kentucky began late in 2017 but by February of this year there have been over 100 cases including 73 hospitalizations due to the disease.  In order to combat the outbreak and keep it from spreading to nearby states the Kentucky Public Health Dept. instituted a mass vaccination give away in Louisville on Tuesday, Feb 20th.
     However, due to the intense demand for the Hep. A vaccine across the country this year there is now a shortage of the immunization. Each year about 1.2 million doses of the vaccine are made, but due to this large epidemic more than that have been requested by health departments and hospitals. Since only two companies make the vaccine, they are unable to keep up with extra supply to meet the demand. The CDC has reported to CNN that they are now working with heath departments to target vaccines at most at risk populations.
    The CDC report on the shortage:

- Chris LeBoa

Thursday, February 22, 2018

An Expanding Lassa Fever Outbreak in Nigeria

       Lassa fever, a violent hemmorhagic disease spread through the inhalation of rodent feces has recently been expanding throughout Nigeria.  In the last week public health officials have confirmed that there were cases in 7 different states throughout the country.
     Edo State (pictured below),  lies in the southwestern portion of the country has seen the most cases, with 35 in the last month alone.

So far in 2017 17 different states of Nigeria have reported cases of the disease, infecting a suspected 973 people and killing 73.  Health officials are worried because the number of cases have increased year over year. Some think that the higher number of cases could be attributed to climate change, as the number of cases spike in the summer months due to more human rodent contact. 
   In order to quell the outbreak of Lassa fever, the WHO has been working on an education campaign to get Nigerians to cover their grain, giving victims plenty of water and proper care and cooking all foods thoroughly. I have included one of their educational fliers below.

- Chris LeBoa