24 June, 2011

Q Fever in the US; H1N1 in Argentina; Scarlet Fever Spreads Throughout Asia

Two Q Fever Outbreaks in the US
Q fever is caused by a bacteria (Coxiella burnetii) primarily found in sheep, goats, and cattle. Infected animals secrete the bacteria in milk, urine, feces, and amniotic fluids when giving birth. Humans typically become infected by inhalation of the bacteria present in barnyard dust, dried birth fluids, or feces. Other routes of transmission include tick bites and ingestion of unpasteurized dairy products. Human-to-human transmission is rare.

Currently, two Q fever outbreaks are ongoing in the United States. In Livingston County, Michigan three cases have been reported, and are associated with the consumption of raw milk products. Local public health officials are reminding consumers of the importance of only consuming pasteurized dairy products.

In the states of Washington and Montana, eleven people have been diagnosed with Q fever after having contact with infected goats. (Six cases in Washington and 5 in Montana) The goats were part of a now quarantined herd in central Washington that was later sold to a livestock operator in Montana. The investigation into this multi-state outbreak is ongoing.


Swine Flu Hits Mendoza, Argentina
As the weather becomes colder, Mendoza, well known for it’s delicious wines, is experiencing a Swine Flu outbreak. On June 22, the Mendoza government finally confirmed that there is indeed an outbreak in the city with 54 confirmed cases and 1 death. Health officials are urging people in the province to become vaccinated against H1N1 as only 41% are currently registered as being vaccinated. The government hopes to contain this outbreak before it spreads to other cities like Santa Fe and Corrientes.


Scarlet Fever Continues to Spread Throughout Asia
Earlier this week, we reported that a mutated strain of the bacteria that causes scarlet fever resulted in 2 deaths and a record number of cases in Hong Kong for this year. On Tuesday, authorities closed a kindergarten after early testing suggested another suspect death in a 5 year old boy. As of June 22nd, Hong Kong has reported 494 cases. Although scarlet fever occurs every year and is endemic to most of Southeast Asia, this year’s epidemic has been particularly severe. Shanghai reported 771 cases in the last month alone - a 13-fold increase compared to the same period last year, although the mutated strain has not been found to be the cause. The epidemic in Hong Kong has also caused growing concern in Macau, where 49 cases have already been reported, and also in nearby Thailand, where authorities are making all effort to assuage public fear in spite of the 524 cases that have already been reported for this year. Experts believe that with the onset of school breaking for the summer, the rate of infection could taper off as a result of reduced contact among children.

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