15 September, 2010

Spotlight News of the Week

New Bunyavirus in China
A series of curious tick-borne related cases and deaths were recently reported out of Shangcheng County in Henan Province. Patients all display symptoms indicative of HGA, an infectious disease known to be caused by a bacterium and transmitted via tick bites. However, what was isolated from these patients was not a bacterium, but a new type of virus currently dubbed as a “New Bunyavirus,” which scientists believe to be the cause of these suspect HGA cases and deaths. Scientists have also named this HGA-like disease “fever-associated thrombocytopenia syndrome.” Currently, over 120 suspect HGA cases have been reported for Henan in 2010, 87 suspect cases and 5 suspect deaths were reported for 2009 and as many as 557 cases and 18 deaths since 2007. Perhaps most worrisome has been the delay in communication of this situation to the public, as nearby provinces of Shandong, Hubei, Shanxi have all reported numerous cases and deaths since 2006. While health officials have deemed the disease “not very deadly” and have asked the public to therefore not worry, it still remains to be seen whether current control efforts against ticks will be effective in stopping the spread of this new virus and disease that currently has no effective treatment.

Additional News Highlights

First Dengue case in France
Although 18 Dengue deaths have been reported in the French overseas territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe, the case reported in Nice is the first case in mainland France. Local authorities have warned residents to avoid mosquito bites.

NDM-1 (the “Superbug”) found in 3 US states
The NDM-1 gene which gives bacteria resistance to many strong antibiotics (see our 17 Aug 2010 blog) has been found in California, Illinois, and Massachusetts. In all cases, the patients had recently been to India and received medical attention there.

Monkeypox on the rise in DRC
On August 30th, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published an interesting study on monkeypox in DR Congo. The smallpox vaccine protects against monkeypox, but the eradication of smallpox means that children no longer are vaccinated against it (and are therefore susceptible to monkeypox). Rimoin et al report that cases of monkeypox have surged in recent decades. This study is not the first to identify an unexpected benefit of the smallpox vaccine. In a very preliminary study published earlier this year, Weinstein et al found immunologic evidence that the smallpox vaccine may provide some protection against HIV infection and progression.

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