14 June, 2011

N. Dakota Sees Measles; C. difficile in Ontario Hospital; Girl Survives Rabies

Measles in North Dakota after 24 years
Today, Cass County, North Dakota confirmed its very first case of measles since 1987. The Cass County health department says the case is a 50-year-old man who was not previously vaccinated for measles.  This man appeared to have caught the virus while traveling on an airplane and was not actually in North Dakota while it was contagious so more cases are not anticipated in the state.

Measles, also known as rubeola, is a highly communicable respiratory infection caused by a paramyxovirus. The incubation period for measles is anywhere from six to nineteen days, infectivity from two to four days, and then come symptoms such as runny nose, cough, fever and a rash. Measles can be a very serious infection and even lead to death.

Since this case confirmation, health officials are encouraging North Dakota residents to become vaccinated. Currently, the state’s MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination rate is nearly 94%. This is slightly higher than the national vaccination rate average of 90%. However, people born before 1957 were not routinely vaccinated so they may be more at risk for contracting these diseases.

C. difficile Hits St. Catharines, Ontario Hospital
An outbreak of the deadly C. difficile bacteria was declared on May 28th, 2011 at the Niagara Health Systems’ St. Catharines General in Ontario, Canada. To date there have been 30 confirmed cases and 5 deaths (a 6th death was confirmed, however contracted the disease outside of the facility) associated with the outbreak with 19 still hospitalized.

Clostridium difficile commonly develops in health-care settings in elderly patients and those taking certain antibiotics. The infection can spread from person-to-person, on contaminated equipment, or on the hands of doctors, nurses, and other providers. Symptoms of infection include watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, and nausea.

As part of standard outbreak control measures, the Niagara Health System has implemented increased hand-washing and closer monitoring of antibiotic use at the Hospital. Strict restrictions have also been placed on visitors. The hours open to visitors have been reduced, and visitors to the hospital are not allowed to visit multiple patient rooms.  

Eight-year Old Girl Survives Rabies without Vaccination
Eight-year old Precious Reynolds became just the 6th person in the world to have survived a rabies bite without receiving vaccination. The little girl was scratched on the arms by a feral cat near her school. However, because her symptoms began mildly as a stomachache and only later progressed to paralysis in her throat and pain in her neck and back, she did not receive any rabies shots, which are only effective if administered immediately after exposure.

It was not until she was admitted to UC Davis Children’s Hospital that tests confirmed a rabies infection, by which point she had also developed encephalitis. The medical team treated her with a regimen known as the Milwaukee Protocol, which first puts the patient into a medically-induced coma and then administers antiviral drugs. This treatment was responsible for the recovery of all 6 people who survived without vaccination.

Rabies is a viral disease transmitted to humans via bites by infected animals, most often dogs, cats, or bats. Prior to 2004, the virus was 100% lethal in humans without vaccination.

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