Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—February 9, 2020


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

#5: Most Pediatricians Aren't Talking to At-Risk Teenagers About HIV Testing

Among the general US population, an estimated 14.5% of people living with HIV have not been diagnosed. In the 13- to 24-year-old age group, that estimate rises to 51.4%.

The investigators of a new study, published in Pediatrics have uncovered concerningly low rates of HIV testing among gay and bisexual teenage boys. Less than 1 in 4 members of the study population had ever received an HIV test. Additionally, among teens who reported having anal sex without a condom, only 1 in 3 reported undergoing an HIV test.

The results are worrying, given earlier HIV treatment initiation can alter the course of the disease for the better.

Read the full article.

#4: As Coronavirus Spreads Rapidly, Drug, Vaccine Development Attempts to Keep Pace: Public Health Watch

As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, continues to spread rapidly, at least in China, so too has research and development into novel treatments and vaccines to fight it, if not apace at least close to it.

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is using Moderna’s platform, said during a press briefing on February 7, 2020, that the agency is on the fastest pace ever to develop a vaccine candidate. He hopes scientists will have a vaccine available for initial safety testing within 3 months, with much of that time taken up by efforts to sequence the virus.

“The agency has the funding and technology,” Fauci told the media. “Barring any bureaucratic or regulatory holdups, which I don’t think will happen, we can almost certainly get into phase 1 in 3 months.”

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#3: Is 1 Dose Enough for HPV Vaccination?

The demand for vaccines that protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) outpaces supply in many countries.

In December 2019, the problem was recognized to the extent that the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization went as far as recommending the suspension of vaccination of boys until all girls who need the vaccine can get it.

In this context, the possible efficacy of administering just 1 dose of prophylactic HPV vaccine has become a question of clinical importance. The team behind a new retrospective study published in Cancer has provided more evidence that a single HPV vaccine dose may be effective in preventing cervical cancer.

Read the full article.

#2: What is Sparking Fear of the Novel Coronavirus?

According to the latest reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza has caused the deaths of between 10,000 and 25,000 Americans, hospitalized 180,000, and sickened 19 million so far in the 2019-2020 season.

Coronavirus, on the other hand, has killed about 900 people worldwide. There have been only a handful of cases in the United States, with no deaths reported. So why is the public so panicked over this outbreak?

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has some obvious differences from the influenza virus. The first difference is that we do not understand how the virus will transform itself via mutations to become more contagious in the future. The outbreak is similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which was initially transmitted from animals to humans and believed to have originated from civet cats and bats. Coronavirus, like the SARS virus, typically causes zoonotic infections, being transmitted from animals to humans. One way that these viruses are suspected of getting into the human population is when they are eaten as exotic foods, or taken as medicines, typically found in Asian countries like China. In many ways, the Coronavirus and SARS virus are similar.

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#1: 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.

The last 3 weeks of surveillance indicate that flu activity continues to increase and is expected to continue for weeks to come.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) FluView reports that last week the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza stands at 7.1%, just below the epidemic threshold of 7.2%.

Visits to clinicians for influenza-like illness increased from 6.0% to 6.7% last week with all regions remaining above baseline. However, overall hospitalization rates for the season are similar to previous seasons with a current rate of 35.5 per 100,000.

The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza at clinical laboratories also increased last week, rising from 28.4% to 29.8%. At this time, 47 jurisdictions are experiencing high influenza-like illness activity, compared with 44 jurisdictions the previous week.

Recent estimates indicate that of the 22 million flu cases in the US thus far, 210,000 hospitalizations have occurred, and 12,000 deaths have been reported. In total, there have been 78 pediatric deaths so far this season, with 10 new deaths reported last week.

Read the full article.

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