News Pouch: 6 December 2019

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Pandemic Threats and Health Emergencies

News Pouch: 6 December 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

    External Situation Report 70: 03 December 2019
    In the week of 25 November to 1 December 2019, 10 new confirmed EVD cases were reported from two health zones in two affected provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The confirmed cases in this week came from Mabalako (50%, n=5) and Mandima (50%, n=5) Health Zones. In the past week, violence, widespread civil unrest, and targeted attacks have severely disrupted the Ebola response and restricted access to affected communities in multiple locations. In the past 21 days from (11 November to 1 December 2019), 11 health areas and four health zones have reported cases. During this period, a total of 26 confirmed cases were reported, with the majority reported from Mabalako (54%; n=14), Mandima (23%; n=6), and Beni (15%; n=4).
    click here to download the complete situation report (PDF).

    Ebola response still impeded in wake of violent attacks
    In the latest situation report on the outbreak, the WHO's African regional office said the targeted attacks have severely restricted access to affected communities in multiple locations. From Nov 25 to Dec 1, the WHO tracked 10 new cases of the deadly virus, half from Mabalako and half from Mandima. In a promising development, the WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, MD, announced on Twitter today that Butembo, a former hot spot, has gone 42 days without a new Ebola case.
    Dec 3 WHO situation report

    Half a million Ebola vaccine doses to be stockpiled for emergency use

    MSF response to Gavi announcement on financing of a global emergency stockpile of Ebola vaccine
    Ebola was almost contained in Congo. A wave of violence threatens to bring it roaring back.
    The attack began at midnight, the machete-wielding assailants unidentifiable in the pitch black that engulfed the tented encampment. Their victims were front-line responders to the ongoing Ebola outbreak who had arrived in the remote town of Biakato from across Congo and the world, hoping to cut off the last few chains of the virus’s transmission and end an epidemic that has killed more than 2,200 people over the past 16 months.

    1st Ebola vaccine clinical study in Japan to begin this month

    Priority Diseases

    Preparing for the Next Pandemic — The WHO’s Global Influenza Strategy
    Last year, the world marked 100 years since the beginning of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Over a little more than 2 years, the virus infected more than half a billion people, spreading to remote parts of the globe and causing more deaths than either World War I or World War II — and possibly more than both combined.
    Meeting Report – Technical Consultation on Product Research and Innovation for Influenza Prevention, Control and Treatment

    Non-pharmaceutical public health measures for mitigating the risk and impact of epidemic and pandemic influenza

    Using a hospital admission survey to determine rates of influenza-associated severe acute respiratory infections

    Osivax and NIAID ink plan to test universal flu vaccine
    Osivax, a pharmaceutical firm based in Lyon, France, announced today that it has signed an agreement with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to continue development of the company's universal flu vaccine candidate.
    The vaccine, known as OVX836, targets nucleoprotein, a highly conserved antigen in influenza viruses. Osivax said in a press release that it is funding a phase 1 trial of the vaccine.
    Dec 5 Osivax press release

    H7N9 Disease Situation Update from FAO/EMPRES – Animal Health

    • No new human cases or findings in animals/the environment reported;
    • 4 new relevant publications;
    Vector-Borne Diseases (VBD)

    World malaria report
    The World malaria report, published annually, provides a comprehensive update on global and regional malaria data and trends. The report tracks investments in malaria programmes and research as well as progress across all intervention areas: prevention, diagnosis, treatment and surveillance. It also includes dedicated chapters on malaria elimination and on key threats in the fight against malaria. The report is based on information received from national malaria control programmes and other partners in endemic countries.
    World malaria report 2019

    Nepal faces growing dengue outbreak linked to increasing temperatures
    More than 14,000 cases of dengue have been diagnosed in Nepal since May, according to an article today in The Guardian. The cases, which include six deaths, represent an unprecedented outbreak tied to warmer temperatures that have made the Himalayan country more hospitable to the mosquitoes that carry the virus.
    Dengue was first documented in 2004 in Nepal, but until this year only minor outbreaks in the southern part of the country had been recorded. This year, 67 of Nepal's 77 districts, including those at higher elevation, have reported cases of the viral disease, The Guardian reports, and some officials estimate that the actual number of cases has topped 100,000. Experts attribute the outbreak to the climate crisis, an extended rainy season, and rapid urbanization.
    Dec 3 Guardian article 
    Bracing for the Worst — Range Expansion of the Lone Star Tick in the Northeastern United States  
    Ticks and tickborne diseases are increasingly becoming a major health concern for humans, domesticated animals, and livestock. Reported cases of bacterial and protozoan tickborne disease doubled in the United States between 2004 and 2016.
    China: Inner Mongolia MOH Announces 5th Case Of Plague
    Two weeks ago, in HK CHP Notification Of Two Plague Cases Being Treated In China, we learned of two pneumonic plague cases (M 48, F 46) - originating from Inner Mongolia - who were being treated at a Beijing hospital.
    ASF Asia Update for 5 December from FAO/EMPRES – Animal Health.
    * China released statistics for the month of October 2019. The number of sows increased from last month, for the first time since April 2018.
    * The Republic of Korea reported additional 8 wild pig case in Gyeonggi-do through intensive surveillance in fenced areas.
    * More than 60 % of the communes in Viet Nam detected no ASF for more than 30 days. 
    Development of a highly effective African swine fever virus vaccine by deletion of the I177L gene results in sterile immunity against the current epidemic Eurasia strain
    African swine fever virus (ASFV) is the etiological agent of a contagious and often lethal disease of domestic pigs that has significant economic consequences for the swine industry. The disease is devastating the swine industry in Central Europe and East Asia, with current outbreaks caused by circulating strains of ASFV derived from the 2007 Georgia isolate (ASFV-G), a genotype II ASFV.

    Healthcare-related infections among October Saudi MERS cases
    Of the 15 cases of MERS-CoV reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in October, 4 involved healthcare-related clusters, the agency said today in an update.
    Three of the patients reported recent camel contact, which is a known MERS risk factor. All three drank camel milk. All 15 patients were adults who required hospitalization, and only 3 were women. Patient ages ranged from 26 to 94.
    The WHO said that, since the disease was first reported in 2012, it has received reports of 2,484 lab-confirmed cases, including 857 deaths. Saudi Arabia has been by far the hardest-hit nation.
    Dec 5 WHO update
    More than 140 000 die from measles as cases surge worldwide
    Babies and children most at risk of fatal complications
    Worldwide more than 140 000 people died from measles in 2018, according to new estimates from WHO and CDC. These deaths occurred as measles cases surged globally, amidst devastating outbreaks in all regions. Most deaths were among children under 5 years of age. Measles is preventable through vaccination. Make sure you and your children are vaccinated.
    UN team aids Samoa response to deadly measles epidemic
    UN teams are on the ground in Samoa as the country combats a deadly measles epidemic. So far, there have been more than 4,200 cases and 62 deaths, mainly babies, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency on 15 November and launch a mass vaccination campaign five days later.
    Measles ‘misinformation campaigns’ through social media, fuel rising toll
    Measles deaths and infections in 2019 are set to “substantially exceed” last year’s toll when more than 142,000 people died from the preventable disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

    Measles vaccination drive launched, North Kivu targets 2.2 million children
    Six nations report more polio cases; Pakistan tops 90
    Countries experiencing recent polio outbreaks saw no letup in activity, with Pakistan reporting five new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases and four African nations, Pakistan, and the Philippines reporting more circulating vaccine-derives poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) cases, according to the latest update from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
    Trump administration will provide HIV prevention drug for free to uninsured in new program
    The Trump administration on Tuesday detailed how it will roll out the delivery of donated HIV prevention drugs to people who should be taking them but do not have prescription drug coverage.

    One Health  

    Bacteria testing on Tanzanian bushmeat reveal zoonotic threats 
    Tests on bushmeat samples in Tanzania's Western Serengeti revealed 27 different bacteria groups, some of which included Bacillus, Brucella, Coxiella, which include species that cause anthrax, brucellosis, and Q fever. A research team from Penn State and their collaborators in Africa published their findings yesterday in Scientific Reports.
    Dec 2 Penn State press release
    Dec 2 Sci Rep abstract
    Biodiversity and Ecosystem

    Rising temperatures are making birds smaller

    One-third of African tropical plant species could go extinct
    Scientists tested an algorithm that considered factors including population reduction and habitat decline on a database of more than 20,000 plants from across tropical Africa. The results? About 7000 of those species are in danger of extinction, researchers reported last week in Science Advances.

    Planning Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Flood Reduction and Thermal Comfort Enhancement
    Stop poisoning the well
    Groundwater represents 99% of Earth’s liquid freshwater and makes a crucial contribution to climate resilience. But its essential benefits are being undermined by depletion, contamination and salinization, write five groundwater scientists. A global groundwater statement outlines what must be done to ensure the invisible water beneath our feet continues to sustain us.
    Soil erosion must be stopped ‘to save our future’, says UN agriculture agency
    Although soils are essential for human well-being and the sustainability of life on the planet, they are threatened on all continents by natural erosion, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on World Soil Day, calling for their protection.
    Book: Nature-based Solutions to 21st Century Challenges

    Health workers’ education and training to prevent antimicrobial resistance
    Survey of healthcare workers’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours on antibiotics, antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in the EU/EEA

    CDC Report Suggests Antibacterial Resistance Could Undo Almost A Century Of Progress
    FAO officially designated the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University as a Reference Centre for AMR
    making it the first FAO AMR Reference Centre in the Asia-Pacific Region. With USAID funding, FAO and Chulalongkorn University also released the first volume of guidelines for regional AMR surveillance in animal agriculture. In news from the National Food Institute (NFI) at the Technical University of Denmark, Miriam Meister, MA, discusses theFAO's designation of the NFI as a new Reference Centre for AMR. And the FAO published a story on how farmers can integrate antimicrobial stewardship into animal care.

    Poor Quality Drugs, AMR Resistance and “Murder By Medicine”
    Summary of a symposium addressing the issue of low-quality antibiotics and their effect on AMR focusing on the need for a larger body of evidence to quantify the impact of substandard medicines.

    FDA, NIH create app for novel drug use for difficult-to-treat infections
    "The CURE ID application focuses on drugs for infectious diseases lacking adequate treatments, including neglected tropical diseases, emerging infectious threats and infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant organisms," said Amy Abernethy, MD, PhD, an FDA principal deputy commissioner, in an FDA news release. "When health care professionals directly input their clinical cases into the app, CURE ID allows these real-world experiences to be organized and analyzed much faster, making it easier to spot promising new uses for existing drugs."
    Dec 5 FDA news release
    FDA CURE ID landing page

    WHO Antimicrobial resistance advocacy briefs (2019)
    Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has implications for many other health issues, from cancer to the health workforce to laboratory quality. The fight to keep antibiotics working cannot be won by the health sector alone – it will require collaboration from many sectors and sections of government, and from health workers and patients. This suite of advocacy documents was created to explain how AMR affects health in different contexts and how focusing on different sectors can contribute to managing AMR.

    Trial finds biomarkers fail to curtail antibiotics in severe pneumonia
    Rapid, biomarker-guided tests did not help cut antibiotic use in ICU patients.
    More »

    Guidance on methodologies and tools for surveillance of farm level use of antimicrobials:
    Ø    Summary review of existing methods  from a one health perspective
    Ø    Paper describing “drug bag” method to assess local antibiotic usage
    Ø    Data collection tool example :
    Ø    EU data collection systems: with the methodology proposed by the expert group.
    Prevalence and risk factors for multi-drug resistant Escherichia coli among poultry workers in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria.
    Regional AMR Monitoring and Surveillance Guidelines published
    The first of five volumes of Regional AMR Monitoring and Surveillance Guidelines has been launched. The publication “Monitoring and surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from healthy animals” is centred on healthy animals for consumption and on protection of public health. It provides guidelines on the design of AMR monitoring and surveillance, with a particular emphasis on relevant epidemiology and laboratory methods including data management.
    NARMS report shows rising resistance in foodborne bacteria
    Best practices for environmental cleaning in health care facilities in resource-limited settings.
    CDC, in collaboration with the Infection Control Africa Network (ICAN) have published new guidance on best practices for environmental cleaning procedures and programs in healthcare facilities.
    AMR curricula guide: webinar recording and editorial
    Following the launch of the AMR curricula guide in October, a recording of the event can be found here: An editorial is also available in the WHO Bulletin
    WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases
    highlights progress made in the Structured Operational Research and Training IniTiative (SORT IT), including steps made to build an evidence base for addressing AMR in Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Myanmar, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Read more here

    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Dec 05, 2019

    • MRSA screening test OK'd
    • New CARB-X funding
    • Delafloxacin for pneumonia

    More »

    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Dec 03, 2019

    • Non-beta-lactam allergy testing
    • Antibiotic review at discharge

    More »

    Emergencies and Disasters

    WHO AFRO - Outbreaks and Emergencies Bulletin - Week 48/2019
    The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 62 events in the region. This week’s main articles cover key new and ongoing events, including:

    • Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 in Ghana
    • Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Floods in Congo
    • Humanitarian crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    Record Number of People Will Need Help in 2020: Global Humanitarian Overview
    Read more
    Ensuring access to affordable, timely vaccines in emergencies

    Climate Change and Health

    Countries lack funds to protect people's health from climate change
    Countries are increasingly prioritizing climate change and health, with half of the 101 countries surveyed having developed a national health and climate change strategy or plan. However, fewer than 10% of countries have funding to implement these plans completely.

    WHO Report shows nations planning for climate health risks but lack funding
    Half of the countries have developed a national health and climate change strategy or plan, but only 38% have finances that target any level of implementation and less than 10% have earmarked funds to completely implement the plans.
    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said in the news release, "Climate change is not only racking up a bill for future generations to pay, it's a price that people are paying for now with their health." He added that it's a moral imperative for countries to have the resources they need to act against climate change and protect health now and in the future.
    Dec 3 WHO press release
    Dec 3 WHO report
    WMO provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate 2019
    WMO released its provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate 2019 today at COP25. 2019 is on course to be the 2nd or 3rd warmest year on record and concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels. Average temperatures for 10-year (2010-2019) period set to be the highest on record. Global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was about 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019.
    Read the full report here:

    The European environment — state and outlook 2020: knowledge for transition to a sustainable Europe
    The European Environment Agency is also publishing its state of the environment survey.

    The impact of high ambient temperatures on delivery timing and gestational lengths
    Evidence suggests that heat exposure increases delivery risk for pregnant women. Acceleration of childbirth leads to shorter gestation, which has been linked to later health and cognitive outcomes. However, estimates of the aggregate gestational losses resulting from hot weather are lacking in the literature. Here, we use estimated shifts in daily county birth rates to quantify the gestational losses associated with heat in the United States from 1969 to 1988. We find that extreme heat causes an increase in deliveries on the day of exposure and on the following day and show that the additional births were accelerated by up to two weeks. We estimate that an average of 25,000 infants per year were born earlier as a result of heat exposure, with a total loss of more than 150,000 gestational days annually. Absent adaptation, climate projections suggest additional losses of 250,000 days of gestation per year by the end of the century.

    Most climate models were right
    Most climate-change models used in the past 50 years did a good job of predicting the future global mean surface temperature. Researchers analysed 17 forecasts published between 1970 and 2007. For 10 of them, there was no statistically significant difference between their output and historic observations. Five of the seven models that missed the mark got back on track when their inputs were tweaked to reflect factors the original scientists hadn’t known, such as the fact that we would ban ozone-depleting substances in 1987. The findings should bolster policymakers’ confidence that current climate models can be relied on, say researchers.
    Science | 6 min read
    Reference: Geophysical Research Letters paper
    Florida Keys Deliver a Hard Message: As Seas Rise, Some Places Can’t Be Saved
    Officials in the Florida Keys announced what many coastal governments nationwide have long feared, but few have been willing to admit: As seas rise and flooding gets worse, not everyone can be saved.

    Urban Health

    A Research Roadmap for Transportation and Public Health Management
    States and localities are beginning to recognize and act on the connection between health and transportation. A growing number of entities have produced a number of resources, guidance documents, and strategic plans on the topic.
    Realising the multiple benefits of climate resilience and inclusive development in informal settlements
    This report explores how upgrading informal settlements can simultaneously help in achieving climate resilient, inclusive and low carbon development leading to multiple benefits. Upgrading is a process of improving living conditions in informal settlements, often by providing shelter and services while supporting economic development via stronger links with the ‘formal’ city.
    Resilient cities in a Sea of Islands: Informality and climate change in the South Pacific
    This paper demonstrates pathways for building on the resources, networks, and latent capacities of urban informality to enhance the climate resilience of urban systems, using post-disaster case study research from two Pacific Small Island Developing States to illustrate conceptual and practical opportunities for urban planning to engage constructively with endogenous resilience.
    Urban planning: historical changes integrating bushfire risk management in Victoria
    This paper summarises the key changes in urban planning and building regulations that were introduced in Victoria over time to minimise the effects of bushfire on settlements. These have generally occurred within four main eras, being the independent origins of planning and bushfire risk management, the progressive emergence of bushfire risk management into urban planning between the late 1970s and the early 1990s.

    Migration Health

    Why 'Climate Refugee' Status is Still Not a Realistic Option
    Read more
    Displacement Tracking Matrix in South Sudan: Disability & Inclusion Survey 
    Download Report

    Self-harm among asylum seekers in Australian immigration detention
    The Australian government has repealed its "Medevac law," which allows ill asylum-seekers held in offshore detention centers to seek treatment in the country.
    A European human rights official wants a makeshift camp for asylum-seekers in northwestern Bosnia closed over safety concerns, as it stands on a former landfill and a nearby old minefield.
    Haitian migrants face deportation and stigma in hurricane-ravaged Bahamas.

    COP25 Side-event: Moving Forward Together: Averting, Minimizing and Addressing Displacement – The Second Phase of the Task Force on Displacement

    Global Health

    Costing universal health coverage

    The public health crisis of underimmunisation: a global plan of action

    Stop state-level surveillance of DNA
    Predominantly US and European corporations selling DNA-profiling technology are aiding human-rights abuses — most strikingly in China, argues computational biologist Yves Moreau. Moreau outlines how governments, legislators, researchers, reviewers and publishers can act now to reduce the likelihood of massive DNA databases being misused.
    Nature | 10 min read
    “Sustainable Lifestyles Policy and Practice: Challenges and Way Forward”
    This paper provides an overview of the current global situation for sustainable lifestyles, and explores challenges to how they are conceptualised and implemented. The paper highlights the need to further integrate well-being and environmental action, and draws attention to on going struggles with evaluation and scaling. Current practices and efforts to support the transition to sustainable ways of living are presented as an annex, with 32 case studies from around the world.
    To download:
    The UN Flagship Report on Disability 2018

    Time to embrace disabilities in development research

    Facts & Figures: Disabilities in developing countries
    An estimated 1 billion people – 15 per cent of the world’s population – live with a disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and 80 per cent of these are in developing countries. Yet people with disabilities have remained conspicuously absent from policies aimed at development and wellbeing, especially in the global South.

    Countries ‘let off the hook’ by lack of disabilities data



    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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