Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—January 19, 2020

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

#5: Breaking Down the 2019 Eastern Equine Encephalitis Outbreak in the US

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus made a comeback in the United States in 2019. The mosquito-borne illness landed on Contagion®’s list of top infectious disease outbreaks for the year.

EEE has been existence for centuries and 12 US-based epidemics were recorded between 1831 and 1959. Between 2003-18, an average of 8 EEE cases were reported annually in humans, but annual case counts rose dramatically in 2019.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to the virus as the cause of “one of the most severe arboviral diseases in North America.” The latest issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report features more details on the 2019 outbreak in the United States.

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#4: WHO Identifies Urgent Challenges to Address This Decade

The World Health Organization (WHO) is ushering in the new decade by releasing a list of urgent health challenges that require global attention.

The list comprises 13 challenges, many of which are interwoven and require attention from more than just the health sector. These hurdles range from addressing health worker shortages to expanding global access to medicines. As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO director-general, pointed out, none of these challenges are simple fixes, but with proper resource investment, there are solutions that can be reached.

“Countries invest heavily in protecting their people from terrorist attacks, but not against the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly, and far more damaging economically and socially. A pandemic could bring economies and nations to their knees. Which is why health security cannot be a matter for ministries of health alone,” Tedros wrote.

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#3: Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak PHEIC Decision Delayed

The World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations Emergency Committee and WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, will reconvene tomorrow, January 23rd, to determine if the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The panel of 16 experts met at the United Nations’ Geneva Headquarters on January 22nd to discuss the outbreak. In a press conference, committee members indicated that the panel was split on whether or not to declare and PHEIC and will reconvene tomorrow to discuss the situation further.

Didier Houssin, MD, chairperson of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, stated that the split among the 16 committee members was "50/50, even."

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#2: CDC Confirms First US Case of Wuhan Coronavirus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or Wuhan coronavirus in the United States.

First Case in the United States

CDC and Washington state officials said in a telebriefing that the patient is a male US resident who arrived at Seattle-Tacoma airport on January 15, 2020. The patient did not have a fever at the time of arrival, and the flight was not a direct flight from Wuhan.

Additionally, the patient did not go to implicated animal markets in Wuhan, nor did he report close contact with an ill individual.

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#1: CDC Reports 13 Million Flu Cases Thus Far in 2019-20 Season

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released data from the second week of the 2020 influenza season. The FluView report, which includes data for the week ending January 11, 2020, indicates that influenza activity remains high, but severity is not considered high at this point in the season.

At this point in the season, CDC estimates indicate that there have been 13 million influenza illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 6600 flu-related deaths.

The CDC notes that the number of respiratory specimens that tested positive for the flu at clinical laboratories decreased over the past week from 23.6% to 22.9%. Visits to clinicians for influenza-like illness also decreased from 5.7% last week to 4.7% this week; however, activity for all US regions remain above baseline. In fact, 34 jurisdictions are experiencing high influenza-like illness activity.

The percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza also increased from 6.0% to 6.9%, but remains below the epidemic threshold

According to the report, the overall rate of influenza-associated hospitalization increased to 1.9 per 100,000. The highest rate of hospitalization has been observed among adults aged ≥65 (47.6 per 100,000 population), followed by children aged 0-4 years (34.4 per 100,000 population) and adults aged 50-64 years (23.2 per 100,000 population).

Although influenza B/Victoria viruses have been the national predominant virus this season, new data reveal that during recent weeks equal numbers of B/Victoria and A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses have been reported.

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