Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—January 26, 2020

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

#5: Oral Influenza Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase 2 Study

Early seasonal estimates for the 2019-20 influenza indicate that there have been more than 13 million cases of the flu reported in the United States so far.

Officials with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are encouraging all Americans to receive a flu shot, as vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk of influenza and any associated complications.

Although flu vaccine effectiveness estimates are not available yet for this influenza season, authors of a new article in The Lancet Infectious Diseases are calling out the need for new vaccines with alternative administration methods to improve the efficacy of the flu shot.

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#4: Transgender Women Diagnosed With HIV Less Likely to Receive Partner Services

For people newly diagnosed with HIV, it can be daunting to inform partners of the potential for virus transmission. Partner services are an important strategy for health workers to inform those at risk as promptly as possible.

The authors of a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report have found that transgender women diagnosed with HIV are less likely to receive partner services, compared to other people receiving the same diagnosis.

In explaining the need for analyzing partner services among transgender women, CDC authors pointed to a recent meta-analysis of US studies conducted between 2006-17 which identified a 14.2% mean estimated laboratory-confirmed prevalence of HIV infection among transgender women.

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#3: Novel Coronavirus is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director-general of World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the novel coronavirus is considered a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). The announcement was made in a press conference this afternoon.

Earlier today, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the United States.

The new case has been confirmed in the spouse of a patient in Illinois who experienced a travel-associated case of the virus.

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#2: CDC Advises Avoiding Travel to China as WHO Plans to Reconvene for PHEIC Decision

The World Health Organization (WHO) will reconvene the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee once again on Thursday, January 30, 2020, to discuss whether the current novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

The committee met last week to evaluate the situation. The decision was initially delayed by a day but on Thursday January 23, 2020, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, PhD, announced that the committee did not believe that the situation constituted a PHEIC at the time.

The decision to reconvene was based on the documentation of more than 6000 cases of 2019-nCoV worldwide. According to the WHO, there have only been 68 cases (1%) of the virus recorded outside of China, but person-to-person transmission outside of China has been confirmed.

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#1: US Flu Cases Climb to 15 Million With 54 Pediatric Deaths Recorded in 2019-20 Season

Influenza activity in the United States has once more started to increase after falling during the first 2 weeks of 2020.

The latest FluView surveillance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as of January 18, 2020, there have been 15 million cases of flu, 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8200 deaths in the US this influenza season.

Although the agency is reporting that flu activity is high at this point in the season, severity markers, which include hospitalization and death, are not considered high at this time.

The percentage of specimens that tested positive for the flu at clinical laboratories over the past week jumped from 23.4% to 25.6%. Additionally, the number of US jurisdictions experiencing high influenza-like illness (ILI) activity increased from 34 to 37.

Outpatient ILI activity and laboratory data increased nationally, and B/Victoria viruses are considered the predominant virus this season; however, some regions are seeing increases in the proportion of A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses.

Hospitalization rates are considered low overall and are historically consistent with past years at this point in the flu season. Over the past week, the seasonal hospitalization rate increased to 24.1 per 100,000. On the other hand, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza decreased from 7.1% to 6.7%.

This week’s report notes that more than 50% of positive test results for influenza from public health laboratories have been in young people under the age of 25 years. Only 12% of positive results have been in patients 65 years and older, which could explain the high levels of ILI and lower levels of hospitalization and influenza-related death. Although, flu can lead to severe disease and even death in children.

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