Public Health News Roundup: May 5
CDC Confirms First U.S. Case of MERS Virus
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the first U.S. case of MERS, a respiratory virus first identified in the Middle East two years ago. The virus was diagnosed in a U.S. patient who recently traveled from Saudi Arabia. The patient is being treated at a hospital in Indiana and people who traveled with the patient on an airplane from the Middle East are being contacted and told to see a doctor if respiratory symptoms develop. In some Middle Eastern countries, the virus has spread from person to person through close contact, but the CDC says there is no evidence of the sustained spread of the virus in general settings. "The virus has not shown the ability to spread easily in a community setting," said Ann Schuchat, MD, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a telephone press conference on Friday.
"In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS to make its way to the United States....We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility,” said Tom Frieden, MD, director of the CDC in a statement.
The CDC says that anyone who experiences respiratory illness within 12 weeks of traveling to Saudi Arabia, or becomes ill after contact with someone who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, should contact their doctor. The CDC has not recommended that anyone change their travel plans based on the MERS virus. So far there have been 401 confirmed cases of the MERS virus in twelve countries, including the United States; 93 people have died of the virus. Camels have been identified as carriers of MERS, but it's not known how the virus is being spread to people. Read more on infectious disease.
WHO: World Polio Threat an ‘Extraordinary Event’ That Requires a Coordinated International Response
Despite the near cessation of the international spread of wild polio virus in the low transmission seasons (January to April) from January 2012 through 2013, a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) finds that the current international spread of polio can now be considered an “extraordinary event.” WHO experts say the public health risk—the WHO Emergency Committee unanimously agreed that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have been met—requires a coordinated international response. So far in 2014 there has already been international spread of wild polio virus from 3 of the 10 States that are currently infected: in central Asia (from Pakistan to Afghanistan), in the Middle East (Syrian Arab Republic to Iraq) and in Central Africa (Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea). Pakistan, Cameroon and the Syrian Arab Republic pose the greatest risk in 2014, according to the WHO. Read more on global health.
Study: Even Outbreaks May Not Change the Minds of Parents Opposing Childhood Vaccines
Parents who choose not to have their children receive mandatory immunizations may not change their minds even in the face of outbreaks of childhood illnesses, according to a new study. Researchers studied a pertussis outbreak in Washington State from October 2011 through December 2012, finding “no significant increase” in the vaccination rates of approximately 80,000 infants ages 3 to 8 months, according to HealthDay. Paul Offit, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said parents using “personal belief” exemptions to not have their children vaccinate is likely beyond the resurgence of diseases that were once all but eradicated in the United States. "The problem is not theoretical,” he said. "You are starting to see eroding of herd immunity with outbreaks of measles and pertussis. The main reason is people are choosing not to vaccinate their children. It's becoming a more dangerous world from the standpoint of infectious diseases. Measles and pertussis are back. These are serious diseases that before vaccine caused a lot of death.” Offit was not a part of the recent study. Read more on vaccines.