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February 360: Trending Infectious Disease News of the Month

As February comes to an end, we’re looking back at important infectious disease news from the past month.

As an eventful February comes to an end, we’re looking back at important infectious disease news from the past month.

The outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China, now known as SARS-CoV-2 has continued to make headlines. Contagion® contributor Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, discussed the available information about the potential persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on inanimate surfaces in a recent article. Just this week the National Institutes of Health announced that the first clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment in the United States is already underway.

Remdesivir is currently being evaluated against COVID-19 in the trial. The US Department of Health and Human Services has also announced that it is expanding an existing collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to develop a treatment against the virus.

The ongoing flu season could present challenges in detecting COVID-19, leading the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to begin screening patients with flu symptoms for COVID-19.

This flu season, however, is also a public health challenge in its own right. Contagion® has stayed on top of the latest developments in the ongoing flu season, reporting on the effectiveness of the seasonal vaccine the latest case counts.

News from the infectious disease pharmaceutical pipeline included the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of an MF59 adjuvanted flu vaccine to bolster immune response in adults 65 years of age and older.

Contagion® has continued to post twice weekly #StewardTip features, with expert advice on the myths and realities of antibiotic use. Be sure to follow us on social media and bookmark the #StewardTip homepage.

Finally, Contagion®’s February 2020 issue was released, kicked off with a letter from our editor-in-chief Jason Gallagher, PharmD, on over-the-counter rights being granted to Sanofi for oseltamivir. Other articles include commentary on imipenem-cilastatin-relebactam and the impact of early OPAT on 30-day readmissions.

As always, check out the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor to learn more about infectious diseases outbreaks in your area and around the world.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 web articles from the month of February:

#5: Epidemiology Details of the First 425 Novel Coronavirus Patients

On January 31, 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency in response to the outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), while noting that the risk to US residents is still low.

Before the HHS declaration, the World Health Organization announced that 2019-nCoV would be considered a public health emergency of international concern.

2019-nCoV first came to the attention of Chinese public health officials in December as “pneumonia of unknown etiology,” a surveillance category established after the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak.

Read the full story.

#4: Remdesivir Being Evaluated Against Novel Coronavirus

Gilead Sciences has announced collaboration with Chinese, US, and global health officials in order to investigate the safety and efficacy of its investigational antiviral compound remdesivir (GS-5734) against the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Gilead is working with Chinese health authorities to establish a randomized, controlled clinical trial.

Remdesivir is a nucleotide analogue prodrug initially developed as a treatment for Ebola virus and Marburg virus infection. Although remdesivir is not a licensed or approved drug anywhere in the world at present time, the treatment has shown activity against other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in animal models.

In its statement on the matter, Gilead noted that the first US case of 2019-nCoV led to the administration of the drug for compassionate use after the Washington state patient developed pneumonia. In the Washington state 2019-nCoV case, physicians initiated treatment with intravenous remdesivir on day 7 of care based on the patient’s worsening clinical status. No adverse events were associated with the infusion.

Read the full story.

#3: US Flu Cases Increased by 4 Million Over the Last Week

New data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that influenza activity in the United States has increased over the last 2 weeks.

The most recent statistics, collected through the week ending January 25, 2020, report that there have been 19 million cases of influenza during US 2019-20 flu season. This is an increase of 4 million cases since the last report.

Additionally, the CDC has recorded 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths from the flu thus far. Based on these figures, severity is not considered high at this point in the flu season.

Read the full story.

#2: Flu Cases Surpass 22 Million as 13th Coronavirus Case is Confirmed in US

With cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) increasing across the globe, why should we be paying attention to influenza—a respiratory illness that is seen year after year?

The answer lies in the numbers.

Currently, there have been 13 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in the United States, yet flu cases for the 2019-20 US season have topped 22 million. This is an increase of 4 million cases over the span of 1 week.

Read the full story.

#1: CDC Begins to Test Patients with Flu-like Symptoms for Coronavirus

In a call with members of the media on Friday, February 14, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they will begin to test individuals with influenza-like-illness for the novel coronavirus. This will take place at public health labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City.

The CDC plans to expand this initiative to more cities in the coming weeks with the goal of eventually conducting national surveillance in order to guide response strategy.

“This is an extra layer of our response that will help us detect if and when this virus is spreading in the community,” said Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “All of our efforts are now to prevent the sustained spread of the virus in our community, but we need to be prepared for the possibility that it will spread.”

While this was a call focused on the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, Messonnier added that reports of the flu have increased the past few weeks.

Flu-related highlights from Messonnier’s briefing include:

  • Influenza B was the prominent strain in December, but there has been a sharp rise in influenza A (H1N1) cases recently.
  • Rates for hospitalized children are about as high as that of the 201718 season, which was considered a severe season.
  • Estimates indicate that there have been at least 26 million flu illnesses, 250,000 hospitalizations, and 14,000 deaths from flu, including children. Those numbers are up from January, when the CDC reported 15 million cases of flu, 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8200 deaths.

Read the full story.