News Pouch: 7 November 2019

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Pandemic Threats and Health Emergencies

News Pouch: 7 November 2019

Welcome to this issue of the newsletter where we highlight latest research and policy news and literature on health emergencies preparedness and response, tagged by thematic area.

Please send your feedback, articles and reports, or questions you would like to share to
Dr. Chadia Wannous via email  

Wishing you useful reading!

  • Spotlight: Ebola Outbreak Situation
  • Updates and News on Outbreaks
    • Priority Infectious Diseases
      • Influenza
      •  VBD, and more
  • One Health
    • Biodiversity and ecosystem
    • Food Security and Safety
    • AMR
    • Health in Emergencies and Disasters
    • Health and Climate Change
    • Urban Health
    • Migration Health
    • Global Health
    • Contact us


    Ebola Outbreak Situation

    WHO External Situation Report 66: 05 November 2019
    In the past week, from 28 October to 3 November 2019, 10 new confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases were reported from five health zones in two affected provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though the number of new confirmed EVD cases reported is lower this week, compared to the 20 cases reported last week, security issues and poor access continue to slow response activities in certain health zones. This can prevent the detection of cases in these hard to reach areas.
    Violence this week in Lwemba Health Area in the Mandima Health Zone, caused the death of an Ebola response community health worker, and left his spouse critically injured with multiple wounds. WHO and partners condemned the attack, adding that acts of violence against individuals involved with the response are unacceptable and compromise the ability of health workers to provide assistance to communities impacted by the devastating effects of Ebola. The majority (90%) of newly confirmed cases are still being linked back to chains of transmission in Biakato Mine Health Area, and 80% of confirmed cases were registered as contacts. Cases with a history of travel through or a stay in Biakato Mines have been reported in other health areas of Mandima health zone, as well as other health zones, such as Mabalako and Beni. Secondary transmission in these health zones can be expected in the coming weeks.
    As of 3 November 2019, a total of 3274 EVD cases were reported, including 3157 confirmed and 117 probable cases, of which 2185 cases died (overall case fatality ratio 67%). Of the total confirmed and probable cases, 56% (1843) were female, 28% (927) were children aged less than 18 years, and 5% (163) were healthcare workers.
    click here to download the complete situation report (PDF).
    Review of the Strategic Response Plan for the Democratic Republic of the Congo
    “The response to Ebola has required enormous resources. Let us put the emphasis on using this crisis as a means of strengthening the health system. The implications go far beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); the world is watching us.” This was the core message from Dr Eteni Longondo, Minister of Health of the DRC, to the participants of the Mid-Term Review of the Strategic Response Plan 4 for Ebola, which took place in Goma this past week. In response to a rapidly evolving Ebola outbreak, the Ministry of Health, the United Nations and other partners launched Strategic Response Plan 4 on 1 July 2019, which calls for scaling up the Ebola response around five pillars:

    • strengthening the public health response to the Ebola outbreak;
    • strengthening political commitment, security and operational support;
    • strengthening support for communities;
    • strengthening financial planning, monitoring and reporting; and
    • strengthening preparedness.

    Read More

    The man who discovered Ebola
    “It's time for the world to learn that Ebola was discovered by a Congolese,” says Joel Lamika, a colleague of physician Jean-Jacques Muyembe at the Congo National Institute for Biomedical Research in Kinshasa. Muyembe tells NPR how he first came across a mysterious illness in a hospital in central Congo, how he pioneered the first effective treatment against Ebola, and how he is fighting for the future of science in his country.
    NPR | 8 min read
    Ebola and Beyond: Legal Preparedness for Outbreaks. 
    This webinar will examine challenges public health professionals and responders are facing during the Ebola response, as well as current legal provisions and concepts and how to apply them to future infectious disease emergency response planning. In addition, as studies show vulnerable populations are the most significantly impacted when disasters strike, this webinar will highlight protection of vulnerable populations for the next communicable disease outbreak of public health concern.
    Attacks on Ebola Response 15 - 31 October 2019
     In Ituri and North-Kivu provinces, insecurity is limiting Ebola responders’ access, posing challenges for the Ebola health response. Less than five out of sixteen health facilities are operational in Luengba due to the presence of Mai-Mai militias. Newly confirmed cases appear to be concentrated in areas impacted by insecurity and lack of access.

    Congolese journalist who helped raise awareness of Ebola killed in attack

    Bavarian Nordic Announces Submission of European Marketing Authorisation Applications for Investigational Ebola Vaccine Regimen

    Priority Diseases


    A new H7N9 Disease Situation Update from FAO/EMPRES – Animal Health

    • Post-vaccination monitoring results published by China for July and August 2019;
    • No new human cases reported;
    • Updated graph on virological findings;
    • 2 new relevant publications;
    • The Tripartite Zoonoses Guide now available in all UN languages

    Implementing the World Health Organization Pandemic Influenza Severity Assessment framework—Singapore's experience
    View at Influenza Other Respir Viruses

    Introduction of avian influenza A(H6N5) virus into Asia from North America by wild birds
    View at Emerg Infect Dis

    Active surveillance and genetic evolution of avian influenza viruses in Egypt, 2016–2018

    Improved survival rates in patients with H1N1 acute respiratory failure in Korea between 2009 and 2016
    View at PLOS One

    Evolutionary, genetic, structural characterization and its functional implications for the influenza A(H1N1) infection outbreak in India from 2009 to 2017
    View at Sci Rep

    Influenza vaccine effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations in older patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    View at J Infect Dis

    Comparative effectiveness of high dose versus adjuvanted influenza vaccine
    View at Vaccine

    Researchers Identify Antibodies with Potential to Improve Flu Treatments. 
    A set of three antibodies, recently identified by researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), hold the promise of better treatments and vaccines for the flu. In a paper published in Science last week, the researchers noted that the antibodies offer broad protection against numerous strains of influenza when tests both in vitro and in mice. They operated by binding to neuraminidase proteins on the surface of flu viruses, which sets them apart from most flu vaccines. The majority stimulate responses against the surface protein known as hemagglutinin instead.
    Vector-Borne Diseases (VBD)
    Twenty Years of West Nile Virus Spread and Evolution in the Americas Visualized by Nextstrain. 
    To bring new attention to one of the most important mosquito-borne viruses in the Americas, the authors provide an interactive review using Nextstrain: a visualization tool for real-time tracking of pathogen evolution ( Using Nextstrain, they use virus genomics to investigate the emergence of West Nile virus in the US, followed by its rapid spread, evolution in a new environment, establishment of endemic transmission, and subsequent international spread. Overall, their review showcases how genomics can track West Nile virus spread and evolution, as well as potentially uncover novel targeted control measures to help alleviate its public health burden.


    Measles erases immune ‘memory’
    Measles infections in children can wipe out the immune system’s memory of other illnesses such as influenza. This can leave children who recover from measles vulnerable to other pathogens that they might have been protected from before their bout with the virus. The findings come at a time when measles cases are spiking around the world, and highlights the importance of vaccination.
    Nature | 4 min read

    One Health  

    One Health Day 3 November 2019
    November 3, 2019, marks the fourth annual One Health Day, a global campaign that celebrates and brings attention to the need for a One Health approach to address shared health threats at the human-animal-environment interface.
    One Health Day provides an opportunity for experts and the community to join together in One Health education and awareness including sharing stories about One Health in action. Communication, coordination, and collaboration among partners working in animal, human, and environmental health as well as other relevant partners are an essential part of the One Health approach. Working together allows us to have the biggest impact on improving health for people, animals, and our shared environment.
    The One Health EJP Strategic Research Agenda

    Applying Big Data solutions to One Health challenges in the Mediterranean region
    Are animal health stakeholders fully prepared to use geospatial Big Data for disease monitoring and ready to respond to the challenge of transforming the exponential growth of data into intelligence-driven information for action? Can leadership and an enabling environment be provided for a future-focused community-of-practice in One Health data analysis? Discussions at the ‘One Health for the Mediterranean Region in the Age of Big Data’ conference held in Sardinia, Italy earlier this month addressed these issues and more.
    Read about the conference HERE.

    ‘United Against Rabies’ collaboration celebrates one year of progress towards zero human rabies deaths by 2030
    Biodiversity and Ecosystem

    More people at risk of rising seas
    The most detailed maps yet of coastal topography vastly increase estimates of the number of people whose homes are threatened by rising seas. Under worst-case climate-change scenarios, up to 630 million people will face flooding at least once a year by 2100 — three times as many as previously thought. Researchers used neural networks to reduce the errors in satellite data from NASA, which can falsely identify built-up areas and forests as higher ground.
    New Scientist | 4 min read
    Reference: Nature Communications paper
    Agricultural land-uses consistently exacerbate infectious disease risks in Southeast Asia: 
    meta-analysis of disease-agriculture relationships in Southeast Asia find that those who work or live on agricultural land have, on average, a 74% increase in infectious disease risk than those unexposed, specifically within forest monoculture (palm oil and rubber) and non-poultry based livestock farming.

    Insect declines show we must think bigger
    A long-term research project now provides the strongest evidence so far of widespread losses among insects and spiders. Ecologist Sebastian Seibold, who led the research, talks to the Nature Podcast about what he uncovered in 10 years of data from more than 1 million individual arthropods of about 2,700 species. “We have some sites that are protected areas, that are managed mainly for conservation purposes, but still we see declines,” says Seibold. “It’s obviously not enough to just protect a small area or change farming practices within a small area.”
    Nature Podcast | 25 min listen
    Reference: Nature paper
    Read the expert view in the Nature News & Views article. (6 min read)
    Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts or Spotify.
    Food Safety and Security

    How chocolate is consuming forests
    Chocolate mega-brands such as Mars have invested vast sums in trying to tackle the deforestation caused by their products. And countries in West Africa that supply much of the world’s cocoa say they are doing what they can by setting aside national parks and protected forests. But cocoa farmers on the lowest rungs of the income ladder are being left with almost nothing — and despite everything, deforestation is just getting worse.
    The Washington Post | 12 min read
    Blight-resistant rice made with CRISPR
    Genome editing has made one of the world’s most important crops resistant to a devastating bacterial infection. Researchers have used CRISPR to generate rice plants that are broadly resistant to the main pathogen that causes rice blight,Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo).
    (Go deeper in the Nature Biotechnology News & Views article.)

    New study identifies factors affecting spread of brucellosis in humans and livestock in northeastern Kenya
    World Antibiotic Awareness Week 18-24 November 2019
    This year’s public messaging focuses on prevention of infections with basic interventions that are applicable in all settings: safe sex, hand washing and vaccination.
    Download posters and other materials here: Stay tuned as WHO HQ continues to roll out materials in the lead up to WAAW19.
    The 2019 Global Campaign Map is now live and the Tripartite (WHO/FAO/OIE) are looking forward to seeing your events, meetings and media campaigns posted here
    Help launch WHO’s AMR app.
    To mark WAAW 2019 the WHO Headquarters is developing the first ever WHO augmented reality app on AMR and we want you to be a part of it! WHO Headquarters is currently looking for partners in to help launch this educational app on AMR during World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2019.
    Read the concept note (below) and help spread global awareness and increase education on AMR. Read the concept note here:
    Selection and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance in Agri-food production.
    Sewage, rivers and soils provide missing link to antibiotic resistance story
    In the European Commission's Horizon magazine, Aisling Irwin, MSc, highlights research that may link antibiotic residues in rivers and wastewater to AMR in clinical settings, with a focus on implications for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

    Emergencies and Disasters

    Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and Other Emergencies in the African Region.
    Week 44: 28 October - 3 November 2019
    The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 68 events in the region. This week's edition covers key new and ongoing events, including:

    • Measles in Lesotho
    • Hepatitis E in Namibia
    • Humanitarian crisis in Mali
    • Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    Video and highlights of event 201
    Video recordings of Event 201 as well as a short highlights video of the day. These videos, as well as additional information on the exercise, are available on the Event 201 website.

    California wildfires spark health research
    As fires raged in the San Francisco Bay area of California, researchers running a trailblazing study of the health effects of smoke sprung into action. The research is one of the first to monitor wildfires’ effects in a diverse group of people over several years. Scientists hope to use the results to create evidence-based guidelines for mitigating risk and work out what interventions — such as air purifiers — can help.

    Cyclone Idai-Affected Communities Desperate for Permanent Shelter, Livelihoods
    Read more
    Applications Open: Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative, Class of 2020
    The application period for the ELBI 2020 fellowship is now open. The ELBI Fellowship inspires and connects the next generation of leaders and innovators in the biosecurity community. This highly competitive, part-time program provides an opportunity for graduate students and talented professionals to deepen their expertise, expand their network, and build their leadership skills through a series of sponsored events coordinated by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Fellows are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, including government & public policy, defense & national security, industry, the life sciences, law, public health, medicine, global health, journalism, the social sciences, and others.
    Apply Now

    Climate Change

    Climate change, fake news top global health concerns

    Green Climate Fund attracts record pledges
    Twenty-seven countries have pledged US$9.8 billion to replenish a United Nations’ fund for developing nations to adapt to climate change. The pledges exceed the $9.3 billion promised in 2014 — despite the absence of the United States and Australia this time. The United States committed more money than any other nation in 2014, but has since withdrawn $2 billion of the promised $3 billion, and has declined to contribute further.
    Nature | 3 min read

    It’s official: US wants out of Paris accord
    The United States has officially announced its intention to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Way back in June 2017, President Donald Trump said he would take the country out, but yesterday was the earliest date the rules allowed it. The Trump administration argues that the agreement harms the country’s economic competitiveness, while critics say the United States is isolating itself from the global push towards a low-carbon economy. The actual withdrawal will happen in a year on 4 November 2020 — one day after the next US presidential election. If a pro-Paris candidate wins then, the country could be back in the pact in 30 days.
    Nature | 3 min read

    Why we're rethinking the images we use for our climate journalism
    Climate change and heat-induced mortality in India
    This report focuses on the changing climate. India experienced its second-longest heatwave, with temperatures reaching 50.8 °C. July 2019 was the hottest month on record globally. Record-breaking warmth is becoming a familiar trend with new markers broken each year for the last several years. Weather and climate shape India’s economy and society. Temperature and precipitation affect such diverse outcomes as human health, labour productivity,...
    Carbon Capture & Storage: The Future of Climate Change Mitigation
    Since the landmark report of the IPCC concluded that to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) needs to be part of the solution, CCS technology has begun to gain momentum in the global debates on fossil fuels and climate change. This article provides an overview of the most important developments in the field of carbon capture. 
    Read more here.
    Top investment banks continue to invest in fossil fuels despite climate change reports 
    The newest publication drawn from data provided by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) - a voluntary mechanism by global companies such as Bloomberg, to release data necessary for climate action, has shed light on the investment patterns of major investment global banks. The TCFD’s data showed this month that even after the Paris Agreement in 2015, 33 major financial institutions are still investing significantly in the fossil fuel sector.
    Read more here.

    Urban Health

    Nature-based solutions for cities in Viet Nam: Water sensitive urban design
    This publication introduces Water Sensitive Urban Design and discusses its benefits, with examples of integration in Viet Nam. Water Sensitive Urban Design integrates water cycle management into the built environment. It can help cities become more sustainable, reduce
    Investing in resilience is critical to the future of urban living

    Migration Health

    Roughly 17.5 million refugees worldwide live in urban areas not camps the World Refugee Council reports.
    The 2018 World Refugee Council report shows that 60% of all refugees and 80% of all internally displaced persons are living in urban areas.
    Expert Workshop Calls for Better Data to Prevent Deaths During Migration in Africa
    Winter Poses New Threat to Migrants in Bosnian Forest Camp
    Read more
    Significant gaps in mental health services in Cox's Bazar are affecting both Rohingya refugees and host communities.

    Global Health

    Effect of donor funding for immunization from Gavi and other development assistance channels on vaccine coverage: Evidence from 120 low and middle income recipient countries
    Donor assistance for immunization has remained resilient with increased resource mobilization efforts in recent years to achieve current global coverage targets. As a result, more countries continue to introduce new vaccines while optimizing coverage for traditional vaccines. Gavi the Vaccine Alliance has been at the forefront of immunization support specifically among low and middle income countries, alongside other channels of development assistance which continue to play a vital role in immunization.
    Post-Exposure Effects of Vaccines on Infectious Diseases
    Many available vaccines have demonstrated post-exposure effectiveness, but no published systematic reviews have synthesized these findings. We searched the PubMed database for clinical trials and observational human studies concerning the post-exposure vaccination effects, targeting infections with Food and Drug Administration licensed vaccine plus dengue, hepatitis E, malaria, and tick borne encephalitis, which have licensed vaccines outside of the U.S.



    Knowledge Sharing

    Thank you for reading. If you have thoughts, feedback, story ideas, or questions you would like to share or interested in partnering with us on a special event coverage, please send a note to Chadia Wannous via email  


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