Top 5 Contagion® News Articles for the Week of August 27, 2017


Stay up-to-date on the latest infectious disease news by checking out this snapshot of our top 5 articles of the week.

#5: FDA Approves Chagas Disease Treatment for Use in Children

Benznidazole has been granted accelerated approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in children aged 2 to 12 years with Chagas disease. It is the first treatment approved in the United States for the treatment of Chagas disease.

Incidence of Chagas disease in the United States was called into question in a Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) published in May 2017, which presented the results of a study of Latin America-born residents of Los Angeles County, California. The authors determined an overall prevalence of Chagas infections in those individuals to be 1.24%, suggesting about 30,000 cases of the disease in Los Angeles County alone. This is in contrast to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which put the prevalence of the disease at 300,000, country-wide.

Read more about Chagas disease and the recent approval, here.

#4: Hurricane Harvey Puts Health Officials on Alert for Water-Borne Infections

Hurricane Harvey continues to move at a snail’s pace across the South-Western states, bringing with it never-ending rains that have already contributed to flooding reaching as high as the roofs of some ranch homes, as of August 28, 2017. In addition to catastrophic damage and the displacement tens of thousands of individuals from their homes, the devastating floods have the potential to cause serious infectious diseases across the regions that have been affected.

Several infections that can be caused due to flooding are listed below:

Typhoid Fever

This water-borne infection is caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica serotype Typhi. The infection is common in areas where hand-washing is less frequent, or in areas where water has been contaminated by sewage, which is common in major flood areas. Although the infection is not common in the United States, Hurricane Harvey has brought with it major flooding that increases the risk of infection.

View the rest of the list, here.

#3: UNC Study Finds Some HIV Patients with Low Viral Loads Forgo Treatment

With the help of antiretroviral therapy (ART), an HIV diagnosis no longer equates to a death sentence. Because ART has proven to help infected individuals live longer and healthier lives, it is recommended for everyone who is infected with the virus to start ART as soon as their aware of their status.

However, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC), about one-third of patients with HIV with low viral loads tempted fate and avoided taking the recommended HIV medications.

The mass prolonged delay in ART among patients necessitates a closer look at the current guidelines for HIV therapy, the study’s authors noted.

Read more about this study, here.

#2: Can Aetna Recover After Catastrophic Confidentiality Breach? Public Health Watch Report

Health insurance provider Aetna ran commercials in the 1980s with the tagline,“Aetna, I’m glad I met ya.”

However, it’s unlikely 12,000 of the company’s customers, all of whom are HIV-positive, agree with that sentiment these days. That’s because Aetna, the third-largest insurer in the United States, with more than 46.7 million “covered lives”—and more than $63 billion in annual revenues, according to its most recent figures—sent these patients instructions on new options available to them for filling prescriptions for antiviral treatments and preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in envelopes with “a large, clear window,” as a CBS News report reads.

This set-up revealed the contents of the letter and therefore the health status of the recipients. Ironically, the letters themselves were mailed following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit, which had accused Aetna and other insurance carriers of discriminating against patients with HIV/AIDS by requiring them to fill prescriptions via mail order.

Read the rest of the Public Health Watch Report, here.

#1: CDC Quarantines Potentially Defective Equipment

A recent 60 Minutes report is drawing attention to potentially defective equipment stockpiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although this special first aired in 2016, it was re-run the week of August 8, 2017, which brought forth the question of, “what is being done?”

The special focused on personal protective equipment (PPE) that was being stockpiled by the CDC for use against future outbreaks or public health emergencies, such as treating an influx of Ebola patients during an outbreak. The 60 Minutes investigative team filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain documents regarding MicroCool gowns that are part of the US Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The SNS, according to the CDC, is the “nation’s largest supply of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.”

The filing of the Freedom of Information Act request is especially prudent as a group of hospitals were recently awarded $454 million in damages from PPE manufacturers Kimberly-Clark and Halyard Health (formerly a division of Kimberly-Clark) after a jury found they were liable for fraud and defects within the MicroCool gowns. The 60 Minutes team reached out to Halyard. Their chief operating officer Chris Lowery responded that, “We get less than one complaint for every million gowns sold," Lowery said. "And...we've never received even one report of a healthcare professional contracting an infection as a result of a flaw in our product.” Halyard and Kimberly-Clark are reportedly challenging the court’s decision.

Read more about the quarantine, here.

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