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Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—February 23, 2020

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

#5: First Clinical Trial for COVID-19 Treatment in United States Launched

The first clinical trial evaluating experimental treatments for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has launched in the United States. The randomized controlled trial will assess the activity of the antiviral remdesivir among hospitalized adults at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).

Currently, there are no approved therapies for the treatment of COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This trial is being sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Remdesivir is an investigational broad-spectrum antiviral that is being developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. The agent has been evaluated in humans with Ebola virus disease and has been assessed in animal models for other coronaviruses including Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome. Gilead Sciences Inc. is also working with health officials in China to evaluate the efficacy of remdesivir among individuals with COVID-19.

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#4: How Effective is the 2019-20 Flu Shot?

The United States appears to be experiencing the peak of influenza season and one which featured the earliest start since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. While vaccination is recommended every year for all individuals aged 6 months or older, the effectiveness of the seasonal influenza vaccine varies annually.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report features interim estimates of effectiveness for the 2019-20 seasonal influenza vaccine. According to the report, the overall estimated effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccines is currently 45%.

Estimates were made based on data collected from 5 study sites in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and Washington. Patients aged 6 months or older seeking medical care for an acute respiratory infection with cough were enrolled into the research. Participants or their proxies were interviewed for demographic data and to ascertain whether they received the flu shot.

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#3: US Flu Cases Reach 29 Million: Have We Hit Peak Season?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there have been 29 million influenza cases in the United States in the 2019-20 season.

Influenza activity remains high, as it has been in recent weeks, but the latest flu data indicates that activity decreased slightly this week.

Overall, visits to clinicians for influenza-like-illness decreased from 6.7% last week to 6.1% this week. However, all US regions remain above baseline in reporting outpatient influenza-like-illness occurrence.

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#2: Can Coronavirus Pass From Pregnant Women to Infants?

Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has emerged, there has been an urgent effort to understand the clinical characteristics of infection. Medical journals have rapidly published information including the epidemiological details of the first 425 patients with COVID-19 and a close look at a patient cohort located outside the city of Wuhan.

Pregnant women are at increased risk for severe pneumonia and respiratory infection due to immunosuppression. In some cases, respiratory infections can lead to birth complications. For example, a study of pregnant women who were hospitalized with influenza found a substantially higher preterm birth rate than that of the general population.

The investigators of a new study, published in The Lancet, have advanced the understanding of the impact COVID-19 infection could have on pregnancy. The article detailed clinical characteristics and potential for intrauterine vertical transmission in a cohort of 9 pregnant women who developed COVID-19 pneumonia late in their pregnancies.

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#1: CDC Announces Possible Community Spread of COVID-19 in the United States

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that a laboratory confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 has been confirmed in an individual with no relevant travel history or exposure to other COVID-19 patients. At this time health officials have been unable to determine how the patient was exposed to the virus.

Based on this, the CDC noted that this could be the first instance of community spread of COVID-19 in the United States. However, it is possible that the individual was exposed to a person who returned from outside of the country who was infected.

This case, which is the 15th in the United States, was detected by clinicians through the US public health system.

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