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Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for the Week of November 12, 2017

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

#5: Are We Ready for the Next Flu Pandemic?

As flu activity continues to ramp up around the United States, public health leaders met at a recent event to discuss the lack of preparedness for the next flu pandemic.

In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly FluView report for the week ending November 4, 2017, regional flu activity was up from the previous week and reported in six states—Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas—and Guam; 13 states reported local activity.

So far, this season, the CDC has reported that the majority of flu samples collected are well-matched to the components of the 2017-18 Northern Hemisphere trivalent vaccine. On November 13, 2017, a panel of thought leaders gathered at an event called The Next Pandemic, organized by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, to discuss the potential for the next flu pandemic and whether or not the world is ready for it.

Read more about the meeting here.

#4: Healthcare-Associated Infections Are Being Used to Highlight Poor Administration Practices

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) pose unique challenges for infection prevention efforts. Because patient care is complex and involves many different individuals, it’s not surprising that infections occur; however, there are general prevention efforts that can reduce the risk significantly. The rub is that these practices need to be carried out effectively, and that requires training and education for all personnel as well as adequate staffing to carry out the prevention measures. Some health care workers are now citing deficiencies in one or all those requirements as leading to an increase in HAIs and ultimately unsafe work environments.

Earlier this year, members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) at Stanford Healthcare utilized an increase in HAIs to highlight an unsafe work environment. Drawing attention to the financial penalties the hospital received because of the high prevalence of HAIs, the workers cited inadequate training and unrealistic turn-around-time for infection prevention tasks as the cause for the high rates of infections.

Read more about HAIs here.

#3: The US Is In the Golden Age of Vaccine Development

“We are at a golden age right now in vaccinology. The opportunities that we have to take advantage of the knowledge we have gained from immunology, biology, microbiology, and genomics, and to translate this into advances in patient care—this is absolutely incredible.”

Those were the words of Leonard Friedland, MD, vice president, director of scientific affairs and public health, Vaccines, North America, at GlaxoSmithKline, and a representative member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) during the opening presentation at the recent Vaccines + Immunity: Examining Modern Medicine meeting presented by The Atlantic on November 9, 2017, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

With 264 vaccines in the pipeline in the United States to prevent a host of conditions from infectious diseases, to cancer, allergies, and more, the future for the prevention of diseases appears to be extremely bright.

You can read more about vaccine development here.

#2: Legionella in Disneyland Emphasizes the Growing Difficulties of Legionnaires' Disease Prevention

Legionella, the bacteria that is responsible for causing Legionnaires’ respiratory disease, can be a dangerous and deadly problem to deal with. Exposure tends to happen when individuals inhale water mist that is contaminated with the bacterium. The interesting part of the disease is that Legionella is present in most water sources at low levels. Problems arise and result in outbreaks when levels of Legionella are higher and the organism can proliferate in water systems like water heaters, cooling towers, and other stagnant water sources. Outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease can perplex even the strongest infectious disease outbreak investigators and force them to look in places they may not have originally considered. In fact, a recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, shows that even the “happiest place on earth” isn’t immune to this virulent pathogen.

Following reports of 12 cases in Anaheim roughly 3 weeks ago, public health officials found that all the individuals had spent time in Anaheim and 9 had visited the Disneyland theme park prior to their symptoms. One individual was a park employee.

Read more about the outbreak in Disneyland here.

#1: Madagascar's "Worst Plague Outbreak in 50 Years" May Finally Be Winding Down

Plague is one of the oldest—and most feared—of all diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

And right now, Madagascar is in the midst of their worst plague outbreak in 50 years, but the vigorous efforts made by health officials to get it under control seem to be paying off.

Infamously known as the “Black Death,” plague accounted for a staggering 50 million deaths in Europe in the fourteenth century. Since then, the disease has never gone away. Madagascar is no stranger to the plague; in fact, the bubonic form of the disease is endemic on the Plateaux of Madagascar, including the Ankazobe District, which is where the current outbreak originated.

Plague season came early this year for the large island nation—the epidemic season usually ranges from September to April—bringing with it an outbreak of predominantly the pneumonic form of the disease, which, according to WHO is the most virulent form. Pneumonic plague, or lung-based plague, is always fatal in infected individuals if left untreated.

Between August 1, 2017, and November 10, 2017, a total of 2119 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of plague were reported, according to the latest External Situation Report released by WHO, and the death toll has reached 171. Furthermore, 365 of the 1618 clinical cases of pneumonic plague have been confirmed.

The good news is that the number of new cases of pneumonic plague appears to have been declining since the middle of October.

Read more about the plague outbreak in Madagascar here.