News Pouch: 14 January 2020

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Pandemic Threats and Health Emergencies

News Pouch: 14 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

    New Ebola case in DRC lifts outbreak total to 3,393
    A new Ebola case confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has raised the outbreak total to 3,393 cases, and another death has raised the fatality total to 2,235.
    Officials are still investigating 480 suspected cases, according to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) online Ebola dashboard.
    Seventy-six percent of recent cases (31 of 41) have known transmission chains. "The sources of exposure for five new cases reported in Kalunguta Health Zone and four new cases reported in Mambasa Health Zone in the past 21 days are currently under investigation," the WHO said. The DRC's Ebola technical committee (CMRE) said in a report yesterday that vaccination efforts still continue, with 262,682 people vaccinated with Merck's rVSV-ZEBOV, and 4,802 people with Johnson & Johnson's Ebola vaccine.
    WHO Ebola dashboard
    Jan 9 WHO disease outbreak news udpate
    Jan 9 CMRE update
    What Will It Take To Finally End Congo's Ebola Outbreak In 2020?
    Last fall, Félix Tshisekedi, the president of Democratic Republic of Congo, made a triumphant prediction: Before 2019 was over, the Ebola outbreak that had ravaged his country for more than a year would finally be brought to a close. Already, health workers had managed to quash the Ebola virus in all but a small set of remaining hot zones. New infections had slowed to a trickle.

    Monoclonal Antibody Therapy for Ebola Virus Disease
    The two novel antibody therapies that emerged from the clinical trials during the current EVD outbreak in DR Congo have shown to be efficacious in the treatment of Ebola virus disease and are discussed in detail in the article posted below. Learn about how they were tested, their mechanisms of action, as well as differences between the two therapies. Furthermore, be sure to check out the “supplementary material” section within the article for more details on the recent clinical trials that tested these immunotherapies.
    New Ebola case confirmed in DRC amid unknown transmission chains
    All cases in the past 2 weeks have come from Butembo, Katwa, Kalunguta, Mabalako, and Mambasa, the WHO said in its latest situation report on the outbreak yesterday. "Two of these three chains have an unknown origin to date and are still under investigation, including through the use of the genetic sequencing techniques," the WHO said. "The new confirmed cases in Mambasa are of particular concern, since there had been no new confirmed cases in Ituri Province for 66 days."
    The transmission chain in Kalunguta is also unknown.
    WHO Ebola dashboard
    Jan 7 CMRE report
    Jan 7 WHO situation report
    Public Health Program for Decreasing Risk for Ebola Virus Disease Resurgence from Survivors of the 2013–2016 Outbreak, Guinea
    The 2013–2016 Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak was the largest outbreak since the discovery of Ebola virus in 1976. Overall, the outbreak caused >29,000 cases and >11,000 deaths and resulted in the largest known cohort of EVD survivors in history (1). Currently, the second-largest EVD outbreak is ongoing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has had 3,340 cases and 2,207 deaths as of December 12, 2019.

    Priority Diseases

    China releases genetic data on new coronavirus, now deadly
    Officials put the case count at 41 and note how the new virus relates to the SARS virus.
    More »
    China Reports First Death From New Virus
    Chinese state media on Saturday reported the first known death from a new virus that has infected dozens of people in China and set off worries across Asia.

    Chinese woman with mystery virus quarantined in Thailand
    WHO advice for international travel and trade in relation to the outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus in China
    WHO Statement on Novel Coronavirus in Thailand
    The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with officials in Thailand and China following reports of confirmation of the novel coronavirus in a person in Thailand.
    Surveillance case definitions for human infection with novel coronavirus (nCoV)
    This document summarizes WHO recommendations for surveillance of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) recently identified in Wuhan, China (2019-nCoV). WHO will update these recommendations as new information becomes available on the situation in Wuhan, China. This interim guidance was adapted from WHO’s guidance materials published for Middle East Respiratory coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and will be updated regularly.
    Laboratory testing of human suspected cases of novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection - Interim guidance
    The purpose of this document is to provide interim guidance to laboratories and stakeholders involved in laboratory testing of patients who meet the definition of suspected case of pneumonia associated with a novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan, China.
    Clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection when novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection is suspected - Interim guidance
    This document is intended for clinicians taking care of hospitalised adult and paediatric patients with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) when a nCoV infection is suspected.
    Early Detection of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern through Undiagnosed Disease Reports in ProMED-Mail
    We conducted a retrospective analysis of all reports in ProMED-mail that were initially classified as undiagnosed diseases during 2007–2018. We identified 371 cases reported in ProMED-mail; 34% were later diagnosed. ProMED-mail could be used to supplement other undiagnosed disease surveillance systems worldwide.

    Biosecurity: Preparing for the Aftermath of Global Health Crises
    The International Society for Infectious Diseases is collaborating with the Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy (MSIDC) for the 19th International Congress on Infectious Diseases (ICID) taking place in Kuala Lumpur on February 20-23, 2020
    There is a special offer this week (January 13-17th) only on registration. This includes a discount of $250 on the regular delegate fee, and there are also special rates for delegates from low- or middle-income countries, as well as for students. See the registration fees here:
    The ICID is a unique opportunity to connect with over 2,500 colleagues from a wide range of countries and specialties to exchange knowledge, create new ideas and start collaborations. 
    Follow ISID on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates. 
    WHO biweekly global influenza update
    The latest FluNet summary of lab-confirmed data from GISRS
    Review of the 2019 influenza season in the southern hemisphere.
    Avian Influenza Virus Detection Rates in Poultry and Environment at Live Poultry Markets, Guangdong, China
    Live poultry markets (LPMs) can serve as hubs for avian influenza virus (AIV) amplification in poultry and pose risk for human zoonotic infections (1–4). Adopting efficient sampling strategies to monitor AIVs with human zoonotic potential at LPMs is essential for zoonotic disease prevention and pandemic preparedness.
    Georgia State University researchers create, demonstrate universal flu vaccine on mice  A study created by the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has demonstrated the promise of a new, universal flu vaccine, displaying long-lasting protection against six influenza viruses.
    High-path avian flu outbreaks strike birds in China, Poland, and India
    In the latest highly pathogenic avian flu developments, three countries reported new outbreaks, all involving different strains.
    Jan 8 AFD post
    Jan 7 OIE report on H5N8 in Poland
    Jan 8 OIE report on H5N1 in India
    The End Of The Flu: Can We Immunize The World Against A Seasonal Killer?
    Vector-Borne Diseases (VBD)

    New study reveals the origin of complex malaria infections
    Single cell sequencing could lead to new intervention strategies
    Burundi malaria cases reach 8.5 million
    Zika Virus Infection — After the Pandemic
    In their review of the epidemiology and clinical management of Zika virus infection in the postpandemic era, Musso et al. (Oct. 10 issue) recommend serial obstetrical ultrasonography every 3 to 4 weeks for pregnant, asymptomatic women with recent possible exposure and no ongoing exposure, as well as laboratory testing on a case-by-case basis.
    Why Dengue Fever Cases Are Hitting Record Highs In Latin America
    2019 is a record year for dengue fever in Latin America. The mosquito-borne disease has surged across the continent, from Mexico down to Chile and Argentina, with nearly 3 million cases reported. That's more than 20% higher than the previous record in 2015.
    ASF Asia Update for 9 January 2020 from FAO/EMPRES – Animal Health.
    * The Republic of Korea reported additional 14 wild pig ASF cases in Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do.
    * Two more districts of North Sumatra Province in Indonesia were affected by ASF.
    * China reported 2.2% increase in number of breeding sows in the country for December 2019 month-on-month. 
    Comparative therapeutic efficacy of remdesivir and combination lopinavir, ritonavir, and interferon beta against MERS-CoV
    Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is the causative agent of a severe respiratory disease associated with more than 2468 human infections and over 851 deaths in 27 countries since 2012.

    WHO confirms MERS case in United Arab Emirates
    The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed a new MERS-CoV case in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), only the country's second case since 2018.
    Jan 8 WHO statement

    Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Transmission
    Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection causes a spectrum of respiratory illness, from asymptomatic to mild to fatal. MERS-CoV is transmitted sporadically from dromedary camels to humans and occasionally through human-to-human contact. Current epidemiologic evidence supports a major role in transmission for direct contact with live camels or humans with symptomatic MERS, but only limited evidence supports the possibility of transmission from camel products or asymptomatic MERS cases.

    Gaza Strip reports 124 measles cases in 2019
    Through Dec 19 the Gaza Strip in the Middle East has had 124 lab-confirmed measles cases in 2019, including 2 deaths, the WHO said yesterday in an update, while European officials today reported a decline in cases in November.
    Of the confirmed cases in the Gaza Strip, 49 patients (40%) required hospitalization and 12 (10%) involved healthcare workers. Fifty-seven patients (46%) were unvaccinated, including 28 infants. From 2009 to 2018, the region has had a 97% immunization coverage for the second dose of measles-containing vaccine, which is above the WHO's 95% target rate.
    From 1986 to 2018, only one measles case was recorded in the Gaza Strip.
    Jan 9 WHO update
    Measles in EU
    The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), meanwhile, said 17 European countries reported a total of 232 cases in November 2019, which is down from the previous 2 months. Romania (79 cases) and France (48) had the highest November case counts. Slovenia, which had no cases in September and October, confirmed 7 for November.
    From Dec 1, 2018, to Nov 30, 2019, European officials reported 13,460 measles cases, of which 10,589 were lab-confirmed. During this period France had the most cases (2,674), followed by Romania (1,746), Italy (1,689), Poland (1,532), and Bulgaria (1,201). Ten of those infected during this period died, including 5 in Romania.
    Jan 10 ECDC report

    Three countries report more polio cases, including 11 in Pakistan
    Three countries—Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Zambia—reported new polio cases, according to the latest weekly update today from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
    Jan 10 GPEI update

    Surge in polio cases has reversed progress to eradicate virus – and now risks global spread
    WHO is concerned over the surge in cases of wild poliovirus from 33 in 2018 to 156 in 2019, putting the risk of the virus spreading at its highest point since 2014

    One Health  

    After 8 German deaths, researchers suggest more testing for Borna virus
    Yesterday in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers describe eight human fatalities in Germany caused by Borna disease virus 1 (BoDV-1), and suggest that wider testing for the disease may be useful in regions where the virus occurs in the wild.
    Jan 7 Lancet Infect Dis study
    Jan 7 Lancet Infect Dis commentary
    Biodiversity and Ecosystem

    Southern India's fishing fleets tell a tale of 'staggering' tsunami aid money
    "Zero Draft" of Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
    It draws on science and findings of IPBES Global Assessment
     It will be the basis for negotiations on a Biodiversity 2020 agreement at UN Biodiversity COP15 in Kunming
    The first global assessment of trees, forests and land use in drylands
    Food Safety and Security

    Economic effects of the double burden of malnutrition
    Inalienable imperative—More, and more sustainable, meat, milk, eggs and fish for more than one billion people

    Kenyans love maize. But aflatoxins are making it dangerous.
    While seemingly harmless, consumption of maize can be dangerous in this part of the world. Kenya is one of the world’s hotspots for aflatoxins. Poisonous levels of aflatoxins have reportedly killed at least 157 people in Kenya and the overconsumption of maize is also contributing to the country’s growingburden of cancer. A lesser known side effect of chronic exposure to aflatoxins is the role it could play in reduced nutrient absorption in children, leading to stunting.

    US veterinary hospital faces rare antibiotic-resistant E coli
    Fourteen dogs and cats harbored E coli containing NDM-5 carbapenem resistance genes.
    More »
    Impact of national interventions to promote responsible antibiotic use: a systematic review.
    Review: Antimicrobial stewardship in South Africa: a scoping review of the published literature.
    Opinion: The second-hand effects of antibiotics: communicating the public health risks of drug resistance.
    “Fighting the challenge of antimicrobial resistance in Ghana” provides details on the surveillance and laboratory capacity work of the AMR Reference Centre in Ghana.

    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Jan 13, 2020

    • Monoclonal antibodies for superbugs
    • ID consult and death, prescribing
    • C diff carriage and farm living

    More »

    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Jan 09, 2020

    • AMR gene tracking kit
    • Diagnostics for respiratory infections

    More »

    Stewardship / Resistance Scan for Jan 08, 2020

    • Carbapenemase containment plan
    • Hypervirulent, carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella
    • Funds for new class of superbug drugs

    More »

    Emergencies and Disasters

    WHO-Africa- Emergencies and Outbreaks Week 2: 6 - 12 January 2020
    The WHO Health Emergencies Programme is currently monitoring 68 events in the region. This week's edition covers key new and ongoing events, including:

    • Meningitis in Benin
    • Measles in Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Ebola virus disease in Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic.

    Philippines: lava gushes from Taal volcano as alert level raised
    Thousands of people have been forced to flee as scientists warn of imminent eruption
    “The speed of escalation of Taal’s volcanic activity caught us by surprise,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told reporters.
    “We have detected magma. It’s still deep, it hasn’t reached the surface. We still can expect a hazardous eruption any time.”
    Australia Bushfire
    Why was Australia’s government so ill-prepared for the bushfires?
    The hot dry season is getting longer and hotter than before
    In Australia, the Air Poses a Threat; People are Rushing to Hospital in Cities Choked by Smoke
    Australia’s bush fires have blanketed parts of the continent with pollution, affecting hundreds of thousands of people who are not in immediate danger from the flames. Government agencies and medical officials say distress calls, ambulance runs and hospital emergency room visits have surged. Even some federal departments in the capital had to temporarily shutter offices and tell nonessential staff to stay away.

    How Australian fires are devastating animals
    “It is deathly silent when you go into a forest after a fire,” says ecologist Michael Clarke, who has studied the effect of fires on Australian ecosystems since one tore through his field site 15 years ago. “Apart from the ‘undertakers’ — the carrion eaters like currawongs, ravens and shrike-thrushes — picking off the dead bodies, there’s nothing much left in the forest. It’s a chilling experience.” Clarke spoke to Nature about why this years’ bush fires are different, creating new challenges for wildlife and recovery.
    Nature | 5 min read
    We know bushfire smoke affects our health, but the long-term consequences are hazy
    Puerto Rico declares emergency after being rocked by hundreds of earthquakes since December

    Data Collection in Fragile States
    Running dry: competing for water on a thirsty planet
    2010-2019: A landmark decade of U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters
    Health emergency preparedness for imported cases of high-consequence infectious diseases
    To support countries in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) in their review of preparedness system planning, ECDC launched an operational checklist for health emergency preparedness for imported cases of high consequence infectious diseases. The ECDC preparedness checklist describes the system elements that need to be planned, and the required organizational competencies in order to effectively manage the threat.

    Climate Change and Health

    What Will Another Decade of Climate Crisis Bring?
    2019 has been called the year we woke up to climate change. Australia’s wildfires are yet more evidence that it’s time we started acting like it.
    It's time to emerge from our planetary emergency. Here's a plan
    World Economic Forum

    Australia’s bushfires to cost billions as climate risks rise
    More than a decade ago, scientists warned that global warming risked making Australia’s fire season start earlier, finish later and become more intense.
    A 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that “in south-east Australia, the frequency of very high and extreme fire danger days is likely to rise 4-25% by 2020 and 15-70% by 2050”. Today, Australia continues to burn as the country struggles to come to grips with the crisis.

    Extreme conditions created a ‘perfect storm’ for catastrophic fires
    Extreme cold front covers Greece in snow
    Heatwave threatens Tunisia’s date industry
    Over a dozen people have died in Afghanistan after a vicious cold snap
    It brought temperatures to -12 degrees C and pelted the county with heavy snowfall (and rain in other areas).

    Climate change and conflict could fuel hunger in 2020

    • New report identifies developing-world regions to be more prone to hunger
    • African nations such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, South Sudan and Zimbabwe are at increased risk
    • Countries should increase funding to the agricultural sector to avert danger

    The human influence on a day’s weather
    Using any single day of weather observations, researchers can now detect the fingerprint of externally driven climate change and conclude that Earth as a whole is warming. Climate scientists compared how the effects of human-caused warming, predicted by statistical learning and climate model simulations, compared to a global snapshot of the actual weather. They found an anthropogenic signal of global warming for any single day since mid-2012. When looking at annual data, the signal is clear at the global scale since 1999.
    The Washington Post | 5 min read
    Explore the research and implications with climate scientist Seung-Ki Min in the Nature Climate Change News & Views article.
    Reference: Nature Climate Change paper

    Monitoring environmental change and human health: Planetary Health Watch

    2019 second warmest year on record, ends hottest decade yet, says EU observatory
    The EU’s earth observatory programme Copernicus found 2019 was the second warmest year since record began in the 19th century, ending the world’s hottest decade yet.

    Press release: Not giving up – Sea level rise, adaptation and migration in the Marshall Islands
    Air pollution could kill 160,000 in next decade – report –
     The Guardian

    Urban Health

    Salty water in Bangkok is new 'reality' as sea pushes farther inland

    Citizens Reclaim Detroit
    In Detroit’s most vulnerable communities, the fallout from decades of environmental injustice can be found in toxic air pollution, lead-laced soil, and dilapidated infrastructure. 
    “We’re actually Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory in Michigan,” says Detroit environmental activist Vince Martin. “How you just going to sit here using these people as guinea pigs?”
    Part of a Medium series, this article documents undaunted activists who are committed to finding new ways to tackle longstanding city problems: a nonprofit that helps residents pay water shutoff bills, pollutant maps that assign neighborhoods environmental justice scores, and a successful campaign to close an incinerator. 

    The Guardian

    Amsterdam tests green tram stops
    If the tests are successful, more locations could be covered with greenery

    Mayors, unite for the Trees in Cities Challenge
    Citizens can participate too by urging local governments to plant more trees

    Finnish cities recycled a record amount of plastics in 2019
    In Vantaa recycling has increased more than 180%

    22 new sensor stations measure air pollution in Sofia
    Sofia Municipality partners with Thessaloniki, Nicosia, Tirana and Skopje on EU funded project AIRTHINGS

    Migration Health

    Global migration by the numbers: who migrates, where they go and why 
     World Migration Report 2020

    Global Health

    Save the Sustainable Development Goals
    In 2015, world leaders agreed to take concrete action to end poverty, stop environmental destruction and boost well-being in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals. The goals have had a considerable positive impact, but at the current rate, most of them will not be met by the 2030 target. A Nature Editorial outlines how the agenda can be put back on the right path.
    Nature | 6 min read
    Executive Summary of the Disability and Development Report 2018



    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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