26 January, 2011

Gujarat Residents Fearful of Hemorrhagic Virus, Encephalitis in Honduras and More Breaking News


Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Confirmed in Humans for the 1st Time in India
Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) was confirmed to be the cause of a previously undiagnosed outbreak in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India on January 18th. This is the first confirmed report of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever in India. To date, 5 cases have been confirmed, including 3 deaths (a female patient, an attending physician, and an intensive care nurse). The two other patients include another nurse and the husband of the first patient. Previously, serious outbreaks through nosocomial infection have been recorded, and therefore proper control measures must be utilized.  

Ticks collected from the Ahmedabad area were collected and testing showed “high quantities” of CCHF virus. It is likely that the virus is present in ticks and other animals (including cattle) throughout Northern India, as they can be infected but do not die from the disease. If the virus is shown to be present in animals such as cattle, the virus could have spread to humans from cutting infected meat. The Gujarat government has been warned to be on the lookout for additional cases.

Encephalitis in Honduras
In the last week there has been an outbreak of Encephalitis in Guarita in Lempira, Honduras. Guarita is located near the Sumpul River close to El Salvador. So far, twenty horses have died from this inflammatory disease and about 20-30 are ill. No humans have contracted the disease yet, but health officials in both Honduras and El Salvador fear that it may be spread.

Rift Valley Fever Re-emerge in South Africa
A case of rift valley fever has been identified in Groot-Brakrivier in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Although only one case has been identified so far, this has raised concern within the region as an outbreak ending in August last year left 26 people and more than 8,500 animals dead. Furthermore, this has dashed the hopes of local wool and meat producers that the international markets will be open again since restrictions were placed following the outbreak last year. As livestock makes up 49% of agricultural output in South Africa, this may have serious financial repercussions on the local economy. Experts believe that the virus may continue to spread via mosquitoes as heavy rain and flooding perpetuate throughout the country and the Department of Agriculture has advised farmers to vaccinate their animals and to refrain from handling or eating sick animals.

African Swine Fever in Angola
African Swine Fever was confirmed in the cities of Kambundi Katembo and Luquembo of Malanje Province, Angola. A report from January 21st state that the fever has already spread through a great number of the pigs in Kambundi Katembo and Luquembo. African Swine Fever is infectious among pigs and causes hemorrhaging and myocardial infarction in the pig. Resident owners of those infected animals that have died are advised to bury them far from their homes.

Avian Influenza nested in Japanese Chicken Farms
In the early morning of January 23rd, Japanese officials confirmed the presence of avian influenza in chickens from a farm in Shintomi, located in the Miyazaki prefecture. The farm has been ordered to euthanize 410 thousand chickens, as a preemptive measure to stop the spread of avian influenza throughout the poultry population. Although it is possible for avian influenza to be spread to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk is small and transmission of the virus generally occurs only after direct and repeated contact with infected poultry.

18 January, 2011

Flooding Brings Infectious Diseases; Foot and Mouth, and Influenza Updates

Flooding and Infectious Disease Risk Worldwide
Increased rainfall and flooding in many regions of the world have heightened the risk and concern over the transmission of water-borne diseases. Oftentimes during flooding, population displacement and contamination of water sources can lead to major outbreaks of diarrhea, dysentery and even cholera and typhoid fever. Risk of infection is also increased when victims, especially children, come in direct contact with polluted waters and develop wound infections, dermatitis, or conjunctivitis. In the long term, water disasters can leave pools of standing water that create optimal breeding grounds for mosquitoes and increase the risk of vector-borne illnesses such as dengue, malaria, and West Nile. Currently, the onslaught of rainfall and flooding have wreaked heavy damage and increased risk of disease outbreak in the regions of Brazil, Southeast Asia and Australia.

Heavy rainfall in Brazil during this summer season, especially last week, has been extremely problematic causing severe flooding and landslides in Rio de Janeiro’s mountainous region. In just one day the region experienced 95% of the expected rainfall for the entire month of January. Cities like Teresopolis, Petropolis, and Nova Friburgo have been hit very hard with over 400 deaths so far.  As of today, January 18, the death toll in the country is at 677 with about 14,000 homeless due to the heavy rains. This is considered the worst disaster in Brazil’s history (in terms of deaths) surpassing the flood in Sao Paulo state in 1967, which killed 436 people. Government officials worry that these heavy rains could bring disease epidemics to Brazil. The Agency of Civil Defense began distributing vaccines for tetanus and diphtheria in an attempt to prevent infections.

Sri Lanka and Philippines
Heaviest rains in nearly a century and flooding in Sri Lanka has so far left 40 dead, 4 missing, and over 325,000 people displaced. More than 27,000 houses were damaged and victims were forced to evacuate to over 200 camps located on higher grounds. Although in the past days water levels have begun to recede and people are returning to their homes, they are faced with the risk of water-borne diseases in these regions. Those living in the temporary relief camps also remain at risk. Sri Lanka’s government is reportedly mobilizing resources and medical supplies to these areas and making an effort to strengthen the disease surveillance system to prevent any potential outbreaks. According to health ministry officials, so far no cases of such disease have been reported.

Severe flooding and landslides in Philippines have so far spanned 25 provinces and have left at least 50 people dead and 1.5 million people affected. In addition to washing away houses and destroying crops, the flooding may result in large-scale disease outbreaks. According to one rescue unit, one region has reportedly had several hundred cases of dysentery, although this has not been officially confirmed.

In the aftermath of the worst flooding seen in Queensland in centuries, health authorities warn of the potential of infectious disease infections. Already, several cases of melioidosis, which has not been reported in Brisbane since the 1974 floods, have surfaced and large amounts of pooled water could potentially result in a surge in mosquito numbers, leading to increased risk of mosquito-borne illnesses such as Ross River virus and dengue fever. Fecal contamination of water from sewage and the possible spoilage of food from when the power was cut raises concern over food-borne illnesses such as E.coli and salmonella. Many Queensland clinics have already seen an influx of patients seeking tetanus vaccines as a precautionary measure. Although health officials say there has not yet been a rise in gastrointestinal cases, they expect the number of patients with infections to swell if food, water, and sanitation continues to be compromised.

Foot and Mouth Outbreaks
South Korea’s worst-ever outbreak of Foot and Mouth continued as a new case was discovered at a pig farm in Yesan, 134 kilometers south of Seoul.  With meat prices soaring, losses exceeding $1 billion, and extensive culling of livestock representing decades of breeding and care, South Korea is facing a social and economic disaster.  There is widespread belief that North Korea is also suffering from a Foot and Mouth outbreak, but details are limited.  Bulgaria has reported a second outbreak and Vietnam has detected Foot and Mouth in Ha Giang. An outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease has also been reported in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Local officials say the cause is the lack of fences, which therefore allow cattle to mix with infected wildlife. A vaccination campaign has begun, however the high cost of the vaccine adds difficulties to this effort to stop the spread of disease.

H1N1 and Seasonal Influenza Spreading in the Balkans
A fatal case of H1N1 has been recorded in Banat, Serbia, and 26 others are reported to be infected throughout the country. Montenegro reported a second death and registered 100 cases of the H1N1 virus. In addition, a woman in northern Bosnia died, bringing the total number of deaths from H1N1 this season to 4. Albania reports 17 cases of H1N1, and Croatia reports 300 cases with 3 deaths. Romania registered a third death of H1N1 since the beginning of the year.

06 January, 2011

Things to watch in 2011: avian influenza, foot and mouth disease, and animal die-off events

Avian Influenza in Egypt
On December 29th a WHO report confirmed two additional cases of avian influenza (H5N1) in Egypt, one of which has died. The report confirms 115 cases to date for Egypt with 38 total deaths. An earlier report, from December 28th, discusses yet another case in Egypt in the Sharqia Governorate. This 116th case has not yet been confirmed by the WHO. In more recent news, two more cases were reported along with an additional death. This recent news if confirmed would bring the case total to 118 and deaths to 40.

FMD in South Korea
Five of South Korea’s nine provinces have now been affected by the country’s worst ever Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. Despite quarantine efforts put into place when the outbreak began on November 29, 2010, 85 cases have been confirmed as of January 4th, 2011. The country has begun a massive vaccination campaign with over 500,000 livestock slated to be vaccinated to include livestock in FMD-free areas. Use of the vaccine is typically reserved as a last resort due to high cost and additional time that it will now take for South Korea to regain “FMD-Free” status. The OIE has additional report information, including a map of confirmed outbreaks.

Bird die-off Arkansas
Scientists are continuing to investigate a die-off of an estimated 5,000 red-winged blackbirds, grackles and starlings that occurred shortly before midnight in Beebe, Arkansas on December 31, 2010. Initial examinations showed acute physical trauma and no signs of chronic or infectious disease. Some speculate that the incident may have been due to a lightning strike or high-altitude hail. Laboratory tests are underway, but may take weeks to provide any answers.

Fish die-off Arkansas
In what is said to be an unrelated event, an estimated 100,000 drum fish were found dead in a stretch of the Arkansas river in Ozark, Arkansas. Ozark is around 125 miles west of Beebe where on December 31st ~5,000 birds were found dead shortly before midnight. It has been suggested that the massive fish die-off was due to infectious disease, as only one species was primarily affected. Laboratory tests are being conducted on fish collected from the site, however results may not be available for up to 30 days.