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Top Viral Infectious Disease News of 2017

Here is a list of our top 5 viral infectious disease news stories from 2017; Did you read them all?

*If you’re looking for HIV, check out the Top HIV News of 2017.

#5: CDC Issues Updated Guidance for Infants Born to Mothers with Possible Zika Infection During Pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated interim clinical guidance designed to help health care providers as they care for infants who were born to mothers with potential Zika virus infection while pregnant.

In August 2017, the CDC, in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, hosted a meeting where clinical experts presented emerging evidence in the realm of Zika virus. These presentations focused on the diagnosis, evaluation, and management of infants with potential congenital Zika virus. The evidence presented was used to inform the updated guidance.

Despite the fact that Zika virus cases are down compared with this time last year, cases continue to spring up in other countries across the world and in the United States, which serves as a reminder: Zika is still a big public health threat, especially to pregnant women and their unborn children.

In fact, a recent CDC analysis found that about 1 in 12 infants who are born to mothers with confirmed Zika virus infection, come into the world with a related birth defect. If a mother is infected with the virus during pregnancy, she runs the risk of transmitting the virus to her fetus, who then runs the risk of developing congenital Zika syndrome (CZS). CZS is a pattern of birth defects that includes serious brain abnormalities, hearing loss, vision issues, and, most notably, microcephaly.

Read more about the updated guidance for infants born to mothers with possible Zika infection during pregnancy, here.

#4: ACIP Releases Immunization Recommendations for 2017-2018 Flu Season

Flu activity was low in the United States at the beginning of September; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shared its Advisory Committee Immunization Practices recommendations regarding the prevention and control of seasonal influenza with vaccines for this season.

Based on discussions during ACIP meetings held over the past year, just as the vaccine has been updated, the new report provides updates to the 2016-2017 recommendations as well.

For the 2017-2018 season, the committee shared that:

  • Quadrivalent and trivalent influenza vaccines will be available.
  • Inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines will be available in trivalent and quadrivalent formulation.
  • Live-attenuated influenza vaccines are not recommended for use during this season.

Continue reading about ACIP’s recommendations for this year’s flu season, here.

#3: Connecticut Reports its First Human Case of Powassan Virus

There are several tick-borne diseases that infect those living in the United States, the most common of which is Lyme disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, another tick-borne disease is emerging in the United States and the effect appears to be quite debilitating.

In the most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), researchers described a case of a 5-month-old infant from Connecticut who was diagnosed with Powassan virus (POWV) in November of last year.

Powassan virus is a tick-borne flavivirus that was first discovered in Ontario in 1956… It’s a relatively newly discovered virus, and so we don’t know exactly how prevalent it is in humans in the United States,” Holly Frost, MD, pediatrics physician-scientist at the Marshfield Clinical Research Foundation, in Minocqua, Wisconsin, told Contagion® at ID Week 2016.

The MMWR reports that from 2006 to 2015, an average of 7 cases of POWV were reported each year in the United States. Although the virus is mostly found in the Northeast region of the United States, some states outside of this area have been reporting their first cases. According to the study, “it is not known whether this represents spread of the virus within the local tick population, or increased testing and recognition of the virus as a cause of human disease.”

Learn more about Powassan virus, here.

#2: Long-Term Effects of Ebola Virus Infection Revealed

Although the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak may have ended, a study out of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Translational Medicine and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has found that many survivors are suffering with “major limitations in mobility, cognition, and vision,” according to a press release on the research, from the university.

For the study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Soushieta Jagadesh, MBBS, MSc, from Liverpool University, led a team of researchers in assessing disability in a cohort of 27 survivors “12 months following their discharge from the Ebola Survivors Clinic, 34 Military Hospital (MH34) in Freetown, Sierra Leone and compared with [54 of their unaffected] close contacts,” according to the press release. The Washington Group-Disability Extended Questionnaire (WG ES-F), which measures “self-reported physical and mental impairments” was used to assess disability across 6 domains: “vision, hearing, mobility, self-care, communication and cognition.” Severity and frequency of mental conditions (including anxiety, depression, pain and fatigability) were used to establish functionality scores. The results showed that significantly more survivors reported a disability in at least 1 of the 6 domains (78%), compared with the close contacts (11%).

Read more about the long-term effects of the Ebola virus, here.

#1: New Genital Herpes Drug Proves More Promising Than Existing Treatment in Clinical Trial

As what may be one of the most promising treatments for the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) in two decades, pritelivir, has demonstrated in a recent trial that it provides greater viral suppression than the present standard treatment, valacyclovir.

In the study, conducted by a research team led by Anna Wald, MD, medical director of virology research at the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, patients who took pritelivir not only experienced less HSV shedding than those who took valacyclovir (2.4% vs. 5.3%), but they also had fewer lesions (1.9% vs. 3.9%), less pain, and fewer treatment-emergent adverse events (62% vs. 69%).

Pritelivir, which is still in the relatively early stages of development, is particularly attractive to patients with HSV-2 (otherwise known as genital herpes) because it not only limits their symptoms, but also appears to reduce the likelihood of passing the infection on to a susceptible partner. Of note: pritelivir did not completely eliminate viral shedding; practitioners and patients must remember that the protection is only partial. Given that many infected individuals often do not show signs of infection but still shed viral cells intermittently, “management of genital HSV should address the chronic nature of the disease rather than focusing solely on the treatment of acute episodes of genital lesions,” a CDC spokesperson also noted. The spokesperson added that HSV-2 infections tend to have “much more frequent” recurrences and shedding.

Continue reading about the new herpes treatment, here.