News Pouch: 8 January 2020

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Pandemic Threats and Health Emergencies

News Pouch: 8 January 2020

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 74: 07 January 2020
    In the past 21 days (16 December 2019 to 5 January 2020), 42 confirmed cases were reported from 13 of the 87 health areas within five active health zones in North Kivu and Ituri provinces: Mabalako (50%; n=21 cases), Butembo (24%; n=10 cases), Kalunguta (12%; n=5), Katwa (5%; n=2) in North Kivu province and Mambasa (10%; n=4) in Ituri Province.
    As of 5 January 2020, a total of 3390 EVD cases, including 3272 confirmed and 118 probable cases have been reported, of which 2233 cases died (overall case fatality ratio 66%). Of the total confirmed and probable cases, 56% (1903) were female, 28% (956) were children aged less than 18 years, and 5% (168) were healthcare workers.
    click here to download the complete situation report.

    The inside story of how scientists across three continents produced an Ebola vaccine
    The approval of a highly anticipated Ebola vaccine last month should never have happened. Long before the 2014 outbreak in West Africa put the deadly disease on the map, many scientists poured their hearts into developing a vaccine they hoped would one day help people. And when the outbreak broke out, the scientists readily offered it to the WHO, which thought it too premature to deploy in the emergency. But as the death toll rapidly grew, the balance tipped, and the vaccine was tested — setting it on the road to FDA approval three years later. In an exclusive new feature, one that STAT’s Helen Branswell says she has been collecting material on for the past 15 years, she recounts the work that went into developing the vaccine across three continents and multiple scientists.
    Read the story here

    Reporter’s Diary: Hazardous handshakes and other indignities in the time of Ebola
    ‘Against all odds’: The inside story of how scientists across three continents produced an Ebola vaccine
    In the spring of 2014, as Ebola exploded across West Africa, a scientist named Gary Kobinger was following the news intently from Canada. Kobinger was the head of the special pathogens unit at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. He and the team he led had a well-deserved reputation for their work on Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers; Kobinger himself had led development of a promising Ebola therapy.

    Priority Diseases

    Nations step up screening and await word on China's pneumonia outbreak
    Hong Kong, meanwhile, reports a respirator shortage.
    More »
    N95 respirators are selling out in Hong Kong
    as worries surge over the Wuhan mystery virus and people remember SARS fears.
    South China Morning Post
    Preparedness for emerging epidemic threats: a Lancet Infectious Disease Commission The Lancet Infectious Diseases Commission will discuss disruptive factors and how preparedness planning must consider this new ecology by exploring current preparedness platforms and their vulnerability to disruptive factors; by addressing key disruptions, identifying possible solutions, and providing recommendations for countries to strengthen preparedness; by developing a multidisciplinary approach including a strong role for social sciences and innovative technology; by challenging leaders and stakeholders to create sustainable preparedness platforms through collaborations and investment in established and novel recommendations; and by creating a community of practice to share new ideas and monitor outcomes.
    Comparison of alternative models of human movement and the spread of diseasePredictive models for the spatial spread of infectious diseases has received much attention in recent years as tools for the management of infectious diseas outbreaks. Prominently, various versions of the so-called gravity model, borrowed from transportation theory, have been used. However, the original literature suggests that the model has some potential misspecifications inasmuch as it fails to capture higher-order interactions among population centers.

    Three tropical diseases targeted in push for new drugs
    Consortium seeks to discover new drugs against malaria, visceral leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease.

    Evidence of vaccinia dissemination despite lack of major reaction following smallpox vaccination
    Following vaccinia vaccination, vesicle formation at the site occurs in 95% of primary vaccinees and is thought to indicate virus replication and vaccine efficacy. Little is known about virus replication and immune response in those who do not develop a vesicle.
    Preparing for the Next Pandemic — The WHO’s Global Influenza Strategy
    Turning influenza vaccinology on its head to reveal the stalk
    Inactivated influenza virus vaccines (IIVs) have been in use for more than 70 years with no major changes in the underlying technology. Limitations of these vaccines include the long production cycle, which requires strain selection well in advance of their use; provision of only moderate protection when vaccine strains match circulating strains; protection that wanes quickly; potential issues with repeated annual immunization, such as reduced hemagglutination-inhibition boosting and protection from infection; and no protection against novel outbreak or pandemic strains.
    Flu No More: The Search for a Universal Vaccine
    Duke Research Blog
    Oseltamivir plus usual care versus usual care for influenza-like illness in primary care: an open-label, pragmatic, randomised controlled trial
    Antivirals are infrequently prescribed in European primary care for influenza-like illness, mostly because of perceived ineffectiveness in real world primary care and because individuals who will especially benefit have not been identified in independent trials. We aimed to determine whether adding antiviral treatment to usual primary care for patients with influenza-like illness reduces time to recovery overall and in key subgroups.
    Vector-Borne Diseases (VBD)
    Climate Change and Political Chaos: A Deadly Mix in Honduras Dengue Epidemic
    Rising temperatures are increasing the range of disease-bearing mosquitoes globally. But in Honduras, the effects are compounded by government dysfunction and criminal gangs.
    More than 400 people died this year as one of the worst dengue epidemics on record swept through Central America — a type of outbreak that some scientists and public health officials are warning is likely to become more frequent and more widespread because of climate change.

    Burundi malaria epidemic reaches 8.5 million cases, Travel alert issued

    Mosquitoes bring ‘mystery illness’ to the mountain villages of Nepal
    Rising temperatures linked to outbreaks of dengue fever high in the Kathmandu Valley, experts say
    Global heating behind record number of cases of the disease

    Malaria mosquito crosses large desert – ‘it was a breeze’
    Evidence for large-scale dispersal of malaria mosquitoes across the Sahel comes from balloon sampling

    New study shows Zika's long arm in children
    In kids at low risk of neurodevelopmental problems, deficits emerged in the first year of life without a smaller head circumference.
    More »

    Effects of Zika in infants could show up several months after birth
    As scientists seek to understand how prenatal exposure to Zika affects infants, a new study suggests that the effects of being exposed to the virus in the womb could manifest into the first year after birth, and even without signs of microcephaly. Scientists looked at data from 70 Colombian infants born to mothers infected with Zika when they were pregnant.
    Balancing sensitivity and specificity of Zika case definitions
    In a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Raquel Burger-Calderon and colleagues characterize the clinical profile of Zika virus infection and assess the performance of WHO and Pan American Health Organization case definitions in a large pediatric cohort from Nicaragua. They show that Zika disease primarily manifests with undifferentiated fever or afebrile rash, and that the occurrence of symptoms increases with age. As a result, Zika in children is likely to be missed by recommended case definitions more frequently than in adults.
    Tracking the Nipah Virus
    PREEMPT which stands for Preventing Emerging Pathogenic Threats, and it has brought together an international team of researchers trying to identify when and why bats shed Nipah and similar viruses in an research effort funded by DARPA to keep U.S soldiers safe from global infectious disease threats. The project combines virus surveillance in bats and advanced computer modeling to recognize disease hotspots and identify predictors of virus shedding and spillover.

    Malaria Operations Research to Improve Malaria Control and Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in Western Kenya. 
    The purpose of this Notice of Funding Opportunity is: to assist with the implementation of malaria focused operations research, surveillance, and monitoring and evaluation activities, in Kenya. Through this funding announcement, the Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria seeks to fund critical operations research and evaluation activities with the potential to yield high impact public health findings and to improve strategies that will decrease the overall burden of malaria and increase the health and well-being of affected populations in Kenya.


    Suspected MERS cases reported
    The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 3) reported two suspected cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and again urged the public to pay special attention to safety during travel, taking due consideration of the health risks in the places they visit.

    Measles may have emerged when large cities rose, 1500 years earlier than thought

     As measles deaths top 6,000 in DRC, WHO calls for aid
    As the WHO calls for more funding, the CDC says US cases reached 1,282 in 2019.
    More »

    Polio eradication program faces hard choices as endgame strategy falters
    Spread of polio still an international public health concern

    Prevention of Tuberculosis in Macaque after Intravenous BCG Immunization
    Here we show that intravenous administration of BCG profoundly alters the protective outcome of Mtb challenge in non-human primates (Macaca mulatta). Compared with intradermal or aerosol delivery, intravenous immunization induced substantially more antigen-responsive CD4 and CD8 T cell responses in blood, spleen, bronchoalveolar lavage and lung lymph nodes.

    BCG tuberculosis vaccine gets injection boost
    Our only vaccine for tuberculosis, which is normally injected into the skin, seems to work much better when delivered into a vein. The BCG (bacille Calmette–Guérin) vaccine has been given to more than one billion people, but its efficacy varies wildly. Researchers tested various ways of administering BCG to rhesus macaques and found thatintravenous vaccination afforded nearly complete protection from the disease. Tuberculosis researchers Samuel Behar and Chris Sassetti explore what the discovery might mean for the fight against the world’s deadliest infectious killer.
    Nature | 6 min read
    Reference: Nature paper
    Tuberculosis Vaccine Finds an Improved Route. 
    A widely used vaccine against tuberculosis has now been shown to provide almost complete protection when injected intravenously. This is a striking improvement over vaccination through the typical intradermal route.

    One Health  

    Novel human virus? Pneumonia cases linked to seafood market in China stir concern

    Cause of Wuhan’s mysterious pneumonia cases still unknown, Chinese officials say
    Preliminary investigations show no clear evidence of person-to-person spread of the infection, and no cases among health workers, the Wuhan authorities said.

    Two animated shorts on practical steps to improve animal welfare and reduce drug resistance in poor countries

    Biodiversity and Ecosystem

    Deforestation Is a Death Sentence for Tropical Forest Animals

    Urgent new ‘roadmap to recovery’ could reverse insect apocalypse
    Phasing out synthetic pesticides and fertilisers and aggressive emission reductions among series of solutions outlined by scientists
    Biodiversity Alters Strategies of Bacterial Evolution

    Food Safety and Security

    The double burden of malnutrition: aetiological pathways and consequences for health

    Dynamics of the double burden of malnutrition and the changing nutrition reality
    Understanding that the lowest income LMICs face severe levels of the DBM and that the major direct cause is rapid increases in overweight allows identifying selected crucial drivers and possible options for addressing the DBM at all levels.
    Moving On Up
    Migration does not negatively affect agricultural production, and can even spur rural investment and technical change, according to a new paper by Alan de Brauw. 
    (Read Article)
    Trade Paralysis
    The Appellate Body of the WTO has been disabled, wiping out small and poor countries' best chance for appealing trade disputes and raising the odds of more tit-for-tat tariff wars in the future, as Rob Vos warns. 
    (Read Blog)
    Weathering the Storm
    Berber Kramer explores the potential of weather index insurance as a climate adaptation tool for farmers to build up resilience and increase their investments--but many knowledge gaps still remain. 
    (Read Blog)

    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Jan 07, 2020

    • CARB-X funds for novel immunotherapy
    • Co-prescribing of antibiotics, asthma drugs

    More »

    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Jan 06, 2020

    • Pediatric stewardship review
    • Carbapenem resistance in Egyptian hospitals
    • Targeted C diff reduction

    More »
    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Jan 03, 2020

    • Antibiotic resistance in European ICUs
    • C diff carriers and hospital contamination

    More »

    Emergencies and Disasters

    Indonesia’s flooded capital disinfected to fend off disease
    Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged a dozen districts in the greater Jakarta area starting Wednesday after extreme torrential rains hit on New Year’s Eve, causing landslides in hilly areas on the outskirts of the capital that buried scores of people. It’s the worst flooding in the area since 2007, when 80 people were killed over 10 days.
    Wildfire increases around the world
    The 2019 Lancet Countdown report on health & climate change found that people in 77% of countries experienced an increase in exposure to wildfires from 2001-04 to 2015-18.
    Explore wildfire data here:

    Health care providers are unrecognized victims of mass killings. We’re doing little to support them
    Neighborhood ties reduced depressive symptoms in older disaster survivors: Iwanuma study, a natural experiment
    Objective: As most studies relating to mental health and disasters have employed cross-sectional or follow-up assessments about psychological health with post-disaster information, the association between changes in social ties and mental health remains unclear. We examined the relationship between the changes in survivor neighborhood ties and depressive symptoms before and after a natural disaster.
    Private sector and public health collaboration for emergency preparedness in Nigeria
    Since the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Nigeria has experienced other large outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, meningitis, yellow fever, measles and cholera. More recently, Nigeria has again been in the news for ‘exporting’ monkeypox cases to the United Kingdom. This highlights how our interconnected world leaves us all at risk of the next Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.
    At least 50 killed, 283 000 affected as cold wave sweeps through Bangladesh
    10 Disasters That Changed the World
    Looking back at a decade in which superstorms, wildfires, disease outbreaks, and monster earthquakes have taken unimaginable tolls all over the planet, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. But learning the lessons of every disaster, every time, is important. Every time, the world can respond more effectively – drawing from past experiences and avoiding past mistakes. As extreme weather worsens, people’s understanding of a disaster’s scope and effect can evolve as well.

    Haiti-10 years after the earthquake
    On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by an earthquake, killing more than 230,000 people and injuring 300,000. Medical facilities in the disaster-affected region were almost entirely destroyed. Since then, Haiti continues to face difficulties. At that time, there were only 13 physical therapists in the entire country and most were working abroad at the time.
    Following the devastating 2010 earthquake, a powerful hurricane in 2016 compounded serious political instability that continues to disrupt the country today.

    Hospital Surge Evaluation Tool
    A software-based tool designed to help hospitals evaluate their level of preparedness for mass casualty incidents

    Climate Change and Health

    UNECE Countries Renew Commitment to Clean Air for Better Environment and Human Health 
    Bushfires spew two-thirds of national carbon emissions in one season

    Silent death': Australia's bushfires push countless species to extinction
    Millions of animals have been killed in the fires but the impact on flora and fauna is more grim even than individual deaths

    Falling ash, skies of blood – and now Australia’s anger smoulders
    The past week has been marked by the refusal of public officials, including PM Scott Morrison, to recognise the scale of the crisis

    Australia: New health threats from escalating bushfire crisis

    Britons reach Africans’ annual carbon emissions in just two weeks
    Research for Oxfam shows inequality between footprints of people in UK and in countries including Rwanda, Ethiopia and Malawi
    The Signal of Human-caused Climate Change Has Emerged in Everyday Weather, Study Finds
    For the first time, scientists have detected the “fingerprint” of human-induced climate change on daily weather patterns at the global scale. If verified by subsequent work, the findings, published Thursday in Nature Climate Change, would upend the long-established narrative that daily weather is distinct from long-term climate change.

    Scientists link La Niña climate cycle to increased diarrhea
    "In Southern Africa, precipitation is projected to decrease," says Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, co-author and professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia Mailman School. "This change, in a hydrologically dynamic region where both wildlife and humans exploit the same surface water resources, may amplify the public health threat of waterborne illness. For this reason, there is an urgent need to develop the water sector in ways that can withstand the extremes of climate change."

    El Niño-Southern oscillation and under-5 diarrhea in Botswana
    Dust storms could spread microbes, finds study

    Urban Health

    GEF Council Approves Work Program to Promote Impacts in Cities, Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration

    Migration Health

    IOM: Mediterranean Arrivals Reach 110,699 in 2019;
    Deaths Reach 1,283. World Deaths Fall.
    For the latest data on migrant deaths and disappearances, visit IOM’s Missing Migrants Project website here. Raw data can be downloaded from     

    Global Health

    Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020
    In order to achieve universal health coverage by 2030, the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives. The World Health Assembly has designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. 
    More information:

    Surgery by torchlight: hospitals in Nigeria suffer losing power – and staff
    As a failing electric grid further burdens the creaking health system, doctors continue to seek opportunities abroad

    Raise a glass to recycled wastewater
    Highly treated wastewater that is reused as drinking water is subject to stricter regulations, monitoring, assessments and auditing than the stuff that usually comes out of the tap. But many people are averse to filling their glass with water that so recently went down the drain. Policy researchers Cecilia Tortajada and Pierre van Rensburg set out some solutions to squash squeamishness and better harness this precious resource.
    Nature | 9 min read

    Health care paperwork racks up more than $800 billion in costs in 2017 in US
    Around 34% of health care costs in the U.S. in 2017 — for a total of $812 billion — was for administrative paperwork, according to new research.
    Progress in Pathogen Genomics as a Prototype for Precision Public Health. 
    Rapid advances in pathogen genomics have ushered in a new era of “precision public health.” In a recent paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Greg Armstrong, director of the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection and coauthors describe how public health agencies have adopted pathogen genomics to improve their effectiveness in almost all domains of infectious disease. This blog post includes some examples from the article to highlight the value of pathogen genomics in public health.

    CRISPR ramps up to fight disease
    As the first clinical-trial results trickle in, the prospect of using CRISPR genome editing to treat a host of diseases in people is moving closer to reality. In 2019, the US government’s database listed more than a dozen active studies that are testing gene editing as a treatment for a range of diseases, from cancer to HIV and blood disorders.
    Nature | 5 min read



    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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