Saturday, September 28, 2013

St. Louis Video Interview with Dr. Sharon Frey on Vaccine Work with #H7N9

 Video with Dr. Sharon Frey at link below

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - There's a new flu pandemic brewing called H7N9. The first people to come down with it live in China, but the race to develop a vaccine is going on fast and furious right here in St. Louis.
You may be wondering how alarmed should you be, and how can you help, which is why we invited Dr. Sharon Frey to join First @ 4 Wednesday.
Dr. Frey is professor of infectious diseases at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and is heading up the work to find a vaccine.
Click the video player above to learn about how dangerous this strain of the flu is, and if it's a threat to St. Louisans.
If you'd like to volunteer for the study, call 314-977-6333 or e-mail  to find out more.

Government recruits volunteers for experimental bird flu vaccine

Excerpt - Editing is mine
September 27, 2013

Health officials are calling for 1,700 volunteers to enroll in a study of an experimental vaccine to fight bird flu (H7N9 avian influenza), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


So far, reports of H7N9 are primarily in China. According the NIH, the virus does not easily jump from person-to-person.
However, the health agency is concerned that the virus could mutate into a more problematic virus.

"H7N9 avian influenza virus...has the potential to cause widespread sickness and mortality," said Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a department of the NIH.

"We are now testing a vaccine candidate with and without adjuvant in an effort to prepare for and, hopefully, protect against this possibility."


The study is comprised of two separate clinical trials. Together, the trials will enroll 1,700 healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 64 years old. A panel of independent experts will monitor safety throughout the trial, according to the NIH.
The H7N9 clinical trials are designed to gather information about:
  • safety of the candidate vaccine
  • immune responses at different doses
  • effects of adjuvants
Two different adjuvants will be tested along with the H7N9 vaccine itself. Those adjuvants include:
The H7N9 clinical trials will be conducted in the following cities:
  • Houston, Texas
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Durham, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Saint Louis, Missouri
  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee

VVRP receives contract from NIH to continue its work as Vaccine & Treatment Evaluation Units

Excerpt - editing is mine
September 27, 2013

The Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program (VVRP) has received a contract from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue its work as one of the nation's Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEU). Vanderbilt is one of nine institutions that have the potential to receive funding up to $135 million per year from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, over a seven-year period.

"This contract renewal is evidence of the importance of this work to public health on an international and national scale," said Kathryn Edwards, M.D., Sarah H. Sell and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics, and director of the VVRP.


As a VTEU for the NIH, the VVRP has conducted trials to inform public policy twice in the last decade to address potential pandemic concerns: once to test and evaluate the H1N1 influenza vaccine at the start of the 2009 pandemic, and again just this month to evaluate a vaccine against a potential future pandemic threat from the H7N9 avian influenza.

Other research projects involve the testing of enhancements to the formulation of influenza vaccines to improve their protective power. The additives that are used to enhance flu vaccine are called "adjuvants."

"When these adjuvants are added to vaccines, they improve the responses and reduce the amount of vaccine needed," Edwards said. "This has proven to be particularly important in avian influenza vaccines which can lack the ability to adequately stimulate a protective response in our immune systems."

Edwards says adjuvants are also exciting because of their potential to help avoid vaccine shortages in the future. If an adjuvant makes a vaccine 20 times more potent, it allows manufacturers to stretch vaccine supplies into 20 times more doses.

"That might mean, in the case of pandemic flu, that we can protect our population and others in developing countries that do not have the potential to make vaccines," Edwards said.

Friday, September 27, 2013

#MERS #Coronavirus Saudi Arabia MOH Update 27 September 2013

[3 Cases in ICU from Riyadh. Global Total: 136. Saudi Arabia: 111]

27 September 2013
In the framework of the epidemiological investigation and ongoing follow-up carried out by the Ministry of Health for HIV (Corona) The new strain of the Middle East respiratory syndrome MERS-CoV Ministry announces the registration of three cases of HIV infection in Riyadh. First of citizenship at the age of 78 years suffer from several chronic diseases and receive intensive care treatment. And the second for citizenship at the age of 53 years old, suffers from health problems and is currently also receive intensive care treatment. The third is a citizen at the age of 63 years old, suffering from chronic diseases as well, and receive intensive care treatment praying to God for their speedy recovery.

#MERS #Coronavirus Case Fatality Rate = 45% .. 26% possible nosocomial transmissions -Eurosurveillance

Published Date: 2013-09-26 23:48:22
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> MERS-CoV - Eastern Mediterranean (73): global reviews
Archive Number: 20130926.1969696


[1] Global review - Eurosurveillance
Date: 26 Sep 2013
Source: Eurosurveillance 2013: 18(39), Article 3 [edited]

Of 129 cases with available information on transmission, 33 (26 percent) were possible nosocomial transmissions, 15 of these cases were healthcare workers (HCW). 17 of the 23 cases reported as HCW were female.

The overall CFR among the 133 cases is 45 percent on [25 Sep 2013]. Among symptomatic cases the CFR decreased from 23 of 40 cases (58 percent) in March to May to 21 of 77 (27 percent) in June to September 2013.

Duke Medicine Selected as New Site for Competitive Vaccine and Treatment Research Program

[excerpt - editing below is mine]

September 26, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke Medicine has been named a Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, to evaluate vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to protect people from infectious diseases, including emerging public health needs.

Duke was the only new site named since 2007 to the existing group of eight VTEUs. Each institution has the potential to receive funding estimated to be up to $135 million annually over a seven-year period.


Established in 1962, the VTEUs have been instrumental in the development of new vaccines, including the infant pneumococcal vaccine. They have also tested innovative ways to deliver protection from infectious diseases, including a nasal spray alternative to the flu shot. VTEUs are also beginning to play a growing role in testing treatments for viral infections and improving diagnostic tools.

A key strength of VTEUs is their ability to enroll large numbers of participants in clinical trials to rapidly test vaccines in public health emergencies such as pandemic flu. Researchers can quickly gather and share information on vaccine safety and effectiveness, which is critical during pandemic situations.

Malaysia: TH Medical Team Ready For MERS Threat

MAKKAH, Sept 27 (Bernama) -- The Pilgrims Fund Board (Tabung Haji) health and medical teams here and in Medina are ready to face the Novel corona virus or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona virus (MERS-CoV) pandemic.

Malaysian Haj Delegation (Medical) deputy head Dr Mohamad Faid Abdul Rashid said the Tabung Haji teams were well-equipped to handle the situation, in the event of an epidemic.

However, he said, no case of the disease had been reported, adding that most Malaysian pilgrims sought medical treatment for lung infection, breathing difficulties and normal cough.

He said 23 Malaysian pilgrims were warded at the three Tabung Haji medical centres. They comprised 15 in Makkah (at Syisya and Aziziah) and eight at Al Addin in Madinah.

All were reported to be in stable condition, Dr Mohamad Faid told reporters here today.

NIH renews funding for University of Maryland vaccine research

[Excerpt - editing below is mine]

Public release date: 26-Sep-2013
Contact: Bill Seiler
University of Maryland Medical Center 

Baltimore, MD - September 26, 2013 - The University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) has successfully competed for and received a renewed contract to conduct basic research and clinical studies of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Support for this work to combat existing and emerging infectious diseases is provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 
According to Dr. Kotloff, the NIAID expanded its required scope of expertise to qualify as a VTEU for this most recent contract competition. "Future projects are likely to use molecular tools that are now available to design better vaccines and to unmask signals that lead to immunity, while avoiding side effects," she says. As a result, the CVD team has augmented its multidisciplinary collaboration with colleagues at the University of Maryland Institute for Genome Sciences and the School of Pharmacy, both located on the University of Maryland campus in Baltimore.

The new VTEU contract has more emphasis on international studies, compared with previous contracts.

"This emphasis on global health is a great match for the CVD because our center has a large geographic reach to facilitate clinical studies in several African and Asian countries as well as Santiago, Chile," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "The Center's domestic and international staff includes experts in a variety of fields, ranging from molecular biology and immunology, to internal medicine and pediatrics, to epidemiology and biostatistics, positioning the School of Medicine to contribute significantly to the development and testing of novel vaccines and novel vaccine delivery systems."

A strength of the VTEUs is their ability to rapidly enroll large numbers of volunteers into trials. This rapid-response capability is especially important for testing vaccines designed to counteract emerging public health concerns, such as the vaccine against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, which has become a component of the seasonal flu vaccine. Earlier this month, the VTEUs launched a national, multi-center trial of a vaccine aimed to prevent an especially virulent avian influenza virus, H7N9, which emerged in people early in 2013. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

China: Experts: Be alert of #H7N9 amid flu seasons

Excerpt - editing is mine

BEIJING, Sept. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- The avian influenza strain of H7N9 is highly likely to return and affect humans in the autumn and winter on the Chinese mainland, warned Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
China has remained free of new human H7N9 cases for more than a month since the last fatality — a 51-year-old woman who died of multiple organ failure caused by the virus on Aug 12 in Huizhou, Guangdong province — according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The woman, who was transferred from Langfang, Hebei province, in mid July, worked in slaughtering poultry at a local market.
China has reported 134 human infections of H7N9 on the mainland, including 45 deaths, official statistics show.
"Given that the virus never stopped circulating among birds, humans are also at risk of infection, particularly in the common peak flu season, which usually lasts till spring,"Zeng said.
An overlap of the peak flu season and more frequent smoggy weather could make the situation even worse and intervention efforts more complicated, he said.
Flu prevention requires good ventilation, which can't be easily supplied in smoggy weather, he explained.
He urged the public to take precautions such as to avoid staying in public places for long and to be aware of good personal hygiene, including frequent hand-washing.
In addition, to prevent H7N9 infection, "people shouldn't go to live poultry markets", he said.
Feng Zijian, director of the health emergency center of China CDC, echoed the need for public awareness but dismissed the possibility of a widespread human outbreak.
Close surveillance of the virus has so far detected no major mutations that would enable H7N9 to easily spread among humans, he said.
"We'll have joint consultation on Friday with the agriculture departments which oversee virus surveillance of animals to evaluate the epidemic risk in the autumn and winter season to guide more targeted interventions,"he said.
The Beijing Health Bureau said on Monday it would further strengthen surveillance and intervention of H7N9 in autumn and winter.
All districts and counties of the capital must give all patients with flu or flu-like symptoms within the jurisdiction H7N9 virus screening upon detection of any human bird flu case, according to an announcement by the bureau.


Flu Researcher Ron Fouchier Loses Legal Fight Over H5N1 Studies

September 25, 2013

Virologist Ron Fouchier has suffered a loss in a legal battle with the Dutch government over the publication of his controversial H5N1 influenza research. On Friday, a Dutch district court ruled that the government was right to ask Fouchier to obtain an export license before sending two hotly debated papers out for publication. The ruling, published yesterday (Dutch), could provide new roadblocks for Fouchier’s research in the future.
At issue is Fouchier’s hotly debated paper showing that a few mutations can make H5N1, a virus that normally infects birds, transmissible through the air between ferrets, which was published in Science in June 2012. The fight also involved an accompanying paper published in the same issue in which Fouchier and others tried to gauge the likelihood that such viruses arise spontaneously in nature.


Food and Water Needs: Preparing for a Disaster or Emergency

From the CDC

Follow these steps to make sure you and your family have enough safe food and water (for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc.) available in the event of a disaster or emergency.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WHO Statement on the Third Meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee concerning MERS-CoV 25 Sept. 2013

WHO Statement
25 September 2013

The third meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) [IHR (2005)] was held by teleconference on Wednesday, 25 September 2013, from 12:00 to 14:30 Geneva time (CET).
During the informational session, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar presented on recent developments in their countries. The WHO Secretariat provided an update on epidemiological developments, Hajj and Umrah and recent WHO activities related to MERS-CoV. The Committee reviewed and deliberated on the information provided.
The Committee concluded that it saw no reason to change its advice to the Director-General. Based on the current information, and using a risk-assessment approach, it was the unanimous decision of the Committee that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not at present been met.
While not considering the events to constitute a PHEIC, Members of the Committee reiterated their prior advice for consideration by WHO and Member States and emphasized the importance of:
  • strengthening surveillance, especially in countries with pilgrims participating in Umrah and the Hajj;
  • continuing to increase awareness and effective risk communication concerning MERS-CoV, including with pilgrims;
  • supporting countries that are particularly vulnerable, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa taking into account the regional challenges;
  • increasing relevant diagnostic testing capacities;
  • continuing with investigative work, including identifying the source of the virus and relevant exposures through case control studies and other research; and
  • timely sharing of information in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005) and ongoing active coordination with WHO.
The WHO Secretariat will continue to provide regular updates to the Members, and currently anticipates reconvening the Committee in late November 2013. Any serious new developments may require re-convening the Committee before then. Based on these views and the currently available information, the Director-General accepted the Committee’s assessment and thanked its Members for their advice.

1 The names and summary biographies of the Advisor and the Emergency Committee Members are available below.

For more information contact

Gregory Härtl
WHO Spokesperson
Coordinator, News, Social Media and Monitoring
Department of Communications
WHO, Geneva
Mobile: +41 79 203 6715

Saudi Efforts to Stop MERS Virus Faulted

From the Wall Street Journal
Editing below is mine

September 24, 2013
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER in Hafr al Batin, Saudi Arabia, and BETSY MCKAY in Atlanta

Experts Still Don't Know How People Are Exposed to Mysterious Disease

But in Hafr al Batin, a remote town in Saudi Arabia's northeast, relatives of four recent victims complained that no one in the family had ever heard warnings about the new disease or how to avoid catching it. "We had no idea," said Jawal al-Sahly, who lost his 39-year-old brother Fahd al-Sahly, their mother and two other family members.
Hospital workers in the town—site of 11 confirmed cases—kept telling Fahd that "he's not sick, 'You're making a big deal out of nothing,' " Mr. Sahly said in an interview, sitting on the faded carpet of the majlis, or meeting room, of the family's home. Authorities "don't want people to know there is corona in Saudi Arabia," he charged, using the name used by Saudis.

Complete Article:

#H5N1 Cambodia: Ad Campaign Warns of H5N1 Risk

September 24, 2013
Amid concerns the Pchum Ben holiday will lead to a spike in bird flu cases, health officials have begun to roll out a widespread education campaign aimed at stanching the spread of H5N1.
The highly fatal flu has seen 20 cases and 11 deaths this year alone, and typically surges around the Pchum Ben and New Years holidays – when families prepare livestock for meals and offerings.
In a series of radio spots rolled out over the weekend, announcers urge Cambodians to avoid dead or sick poultry and ensure the birds are properly cooked.
“The virus is still spreading in our country and at least 10 people have died from it during this year.… If a resident has a fever above 38C, difficulty breathing and has been in contact with an ill or dead bird, rush children to a nearby hospital or call 115,” the radio recording instructs.
Public health messages will primarily be disseminated over the radio, said Ly Sovann, deputy director of the communicable disease control department.
“We are using radio because we hope that it will educate many [including] those living in distant areas. We have also started an education campaign to raise awareness in several communes and Takeo and Kampot province,” Sovann said.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crofts Blog: A memo from the Saudi Minister of Health about MERS

Earlier this month, I posted A memo to the Saudi Minister of Health, asking for more information on MERS cases. Today I received an extended reply, which I'm happy to share with you. I welcome your comments.

#MERS #Coronavirus Indonesia: Note Requested Pilgrims Mers CoV Infection Prevention

September 23, 2013
Jakarta, InfoPublik - Ministry of Health urged pilgrims do efforts to anticipate the spread of disease cases Corona Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Virus (mers CoV), following its report of eight new cases of the disease in Saudi Arabia in recent days.
Director General of Disease Control and Environmental Health Ministry of Health Tjandra Yoga Aditama, in a statement in Jakarta, Monday (23/9), explains the appeal to live clean healthy behaviors (PHBs), primarily diligent handwashing with soap (CTPS), eating nutritious, well-rested .
Prevention of transmission of respiratory infections, such as when coughing mouth closed, use of masks. Sensitive to the possibility of illness respiratory infection, it means do not underestimate the complaints of cough, fever and others. In addition, if there is suspicion of Mers CoV where health rapidly deteriorated in 1-2 days, no history of contact, then it should be immediately referred to the appropriate health facility, and maintained the possibility of transmission.
"Follow the continued development of correct information about the Mers CoV in Saudi Arabia. Feel free to ask and consultation with our medical personnel there," said Tjandra Yoga Aditama
Saudi Arabia reported eight new cases, of which two cases were from the Medina, which is one of Hajj pilgrimage town, though of Medina, but these cases are not pilgrims. "So far there has been no pilgrims were exposed to the corona virus infection," he said.
Meanwhile, all these cases there was a history of contact with other proven cases of corona virus, meaning that indicate the presence of human to human transmission is limited though, not sustain transmission because transmission is not clear there is a second generation, third and so on.
Mentioned, four of eight new cases (50%) are the local health officer. Also on the other hand, there is the case of a health care worker Mers Cov Filipinos in Riyadh and not pilgrims. "News about the case is still somewhat unclear, but it is clear that health care workers was 41 years old.'s The news that the officer to the hospital because ketulangan control and no respiratory complaints, apart from that, there are cases which have not been confirmed that there is a Filipino people again who Mers CoV that had been treated for hemodialysis, these cases occur in Riyadh, not in the city of pilgrimage, "he said.
As in anticipation of this, there are 5 service activities are now carried Strathmore University, the Port Health Office (KKP) Embarkation Hajj (UPT Directorate General PP and PL) always give regular reports every day, and all to do counseling about this corona virus infection in prospective Hajj pilgrims in each dormitory embarkation. In each dormitory embarkation clinic also prepared for the travelers.
In addition, each plane carrying Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia supplied doctors and nurses, and there are also health education through a monitor on the plane. Furthermore, when he got in Saudi Arabia, each fleet has a health officer, who is trained in Mers CoV.
Health care system that is prepared for the Indonesian Hajj pilgrims which include health activities is prepared in the sector ambulance services and clinics' Haji Indonesia (BPHI), the Hospital also Saudi Arabia's government is also ready with all facilities equipped to handle cases of Mers CoV.

#MERS #Coronavirus Health monitor an unlimited budget to meet the Corona virus during the Hajj

Translation/September 23, 2013 [Those would be people in the photo]
Saudi Arabia used the global experts to discuss any new ways to reduce the spread of the disease

Saudi Arabia used the global experts to discuss any new ways to reduce the spread of the disease
Economic Arabia - Newspapers:

Said Undersecretary of the Ministry of "Health for public health," Ziad ميمش, said: "The ministry has allocated an unlimited budget to meet Corona virus during the Hajj season."

According to the newspaper "economic" he added, that "the pilgrimage this year will be a safe environment transmission of infectious and communicable diseases especially Corona, in the light of the decision of the Ministry of Health of strict precautions,"

He pointed out that "Saudi Arabia hired experts from China, Canada, America, Australia and Europe, to discuss any new ways to curb the spread of the disease either awareness or tests or suggest any studies in order to maintain the safety of pilgrims from any infectious diseases, during the organization of the Second World Congress Medicine crowds in Riyadh. "

According to ministry figures, the number of infected cases rose to 107, 49 of whom died since the Corona virus has been detected in the UK in September 2012.

The other outcome of the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the death of 52 people out of 110 confirmed cases in the world due to the injury Corona virus which leads to respiratory problems and renal insufficiency fast.

Has been registered HIV infections in each of Dammam and Al-Ahsa (East) and Batin (northeast), Bisha and Asir (south-west), Riyadh and Qassim (center), Taif and Jeddah and Medina (West).

Since its discovery in the world last September were registered 129 cases of coronavirus infection around the world, including 104 in Saudi Arabia alone.

The total of the deceased with the virus in the world 56 of them 47 in Saudi Arabia, and most of the deaths were of people over forty years of age.

The virus "Corona" or the so-called severe acute respiratory syndrome, one of the viruses that infect the respiratory tract, does not yet exist at the level of the world accurate information about the source of the virus and its modes of transmission, as there is no preventive vaccination or antibiotic to treat it. 

#H5N1 Practice Drill Vietnam Tiền Giang Province

On 20-9, Project Management Prevention of avian influenza, human influenza and pandemic influenza prevention in Vietnam (called Project VAHIP) held drills flu A/H5N1 8th and poultry in Go Cong town.
This activity is aimed at raising awareness and alertness of the community; gradual improvement processes with effective prevention criteria "rapid detection, streamlined process," coordination between the agriculture , Health and the local government under the motto 4 spot (spot directing force in place, supplies in place and handle in place). In particular, during this exercise, the organization launched rehearsal situations handled bodies in cases of A/H5N1 flu deaths.

Accordingly, the Organizing Committee has assumed the situation and discovered avian influenza A/H5N1 infection occurs in hatcheries Cat, Long Hoa commune (Cong town). Veterinary Agency verification, investigation, sampling and testing in poultry prevention guidelines.
Steering Committee for Prevention of conducting town meetings to organize the prevention of sand dunes in the village, the commander of the operator, mobilized, organized forces, assigning tasks, equipment protection protection of individuals and teams starting the epidemic; conduct prevention services in the community; disposition of A/H5N1 flu.
Finally, Board Meetings lessons learned, absorbing opinions of delegates rehearsals.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

China Guangdong Patient is Discharged After 40 Days in Hospital

Hat-tip FluTrackers

September 18, 2013
Guangdong Province, the first case of human infection with the H7N9 avian influenza patients discharged 

Xinhua Guangzhou on September 18 (Reporter Xiao Sisi) on the 18th Guangdong Provincial Health Department announced that after a month of salvage therapy, to treat the medical staff and intensive care, the first case of human infection with the H7N9 Guangdong bird flu clinical symptoms eliminated, on September 18 discharged.
Since August 10 morning confirmed the first case of human infection with the H7N9 avian influenza since the Guangdong provincial government attaches great importance to the work of the patient's treatment, indicating that at all costs to treat patients. After Chinese Academy of Engineering, Zhong Nanshan , led by people infected with H7N9 avian influenza working group of experts and medical teams worked day and night to rescue more than a month with meticulous care, the patient gradually recovered health. September 18, after expert examination and confirmation, Ms. Chen vital signs were stable, generally in good condition, clinical symptoms eliminated to achieve discharge standards, discharged.
According to the Guangdong Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Center, chief expert, He Jianfeng, director of prevention and control of infectious diseases introduced, H7N9 bird flu patients discharged after cure, the virus has been cleared, there is no contagious, and the patient's body has produced antibodies does not reinfect 

Saudi Arabia assured free Haj this year #MERS #Coronavirus

RIYADH, Sept 22. - Saudi authorities have confidence that the hajj this year will be free of any Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The virus was first detected in the country last year had resulted in 58 deaths worldwide with 49 of those were in Saudi Arabia.
"We are optimistic that we can achieve a major milestone during Ramadan Umrah season 'free' from the virus," said Health Minister of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah al-Rabia, yesterday. - AFP 

Doctors On Alert in New Hampshire for #MERS

[editing is mine]
September 22, 2013 8:25 AM

MERS is a coronavirus, as is SARS. According to the CDC, it was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The condition is a severe respiratory infection, with fever cough and shortness of breath as common symptoms. It is believed to spread through contact with an infected person. Of the 114 cases identified, 54 people have died. A small number of cases have been identified in France and in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Kristin Lee of CORE Infectious diseases at Exeter Hospital said they are watching the emergency department closely because that's where cases are most likely to present. They are also distributing almost weekly updates from the CDC to all area physicians.
The CDC is not prohibiting travel to the Middle East at this time. Instead, it emphasizes proper hand hygiene be followed, and that travelers avoid those who appear sick. If they do get sick, people should tell their health care provider about recent travel out of the country and especially to the Middle East.
"We are telling doctors who see patients presenting with severe respiratory ailments to ask about travel history," Lee said. "If they suspect a case, they must report it to the state board of health and testing will be conducted."
There is no vaccine for MERS, although efforts to develop one are under way.
Christine Adamski, bureau chief of Infectious Disease at the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, said they are constantly receiving updates from the CDC.
"We are concerned that the fatality rate is about half of those infected," Adamski said. "This virus appears to be new to humans and there is not a lot of clarity on where it came from and how it is spread. Those who died may have had some pre-existing conditions, but we don't have enough information to be sure. Co-morbidities may have given some people a weaker immune system, resulting in complications that contributed to their death."
Adamski said her office is getting weekly updates on current numbers of cases.
"We are doing some preparedness at the state labs," Adamski said. "The CDC was very diligent early on. They sent test kits to all states and are watching carefully for signs of a global migration. We are advising that when a patient presents with illness and what is routinely tested for comes back negative, to consider this. At this time, we just want to maintain situational awareness."
Adamski said the CDC has issued a Level 1 travel advisory, which informs those traveling to the affected region to follow respiratory etiquette and to be aware.