MERS and H7N9 Infectious Disease Update

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve released an emerging infectious disease update, and there have been several developments since our last post.  In general, the impact of both viruses has been less severe than expected; this might be due to the extensive precautions that were taken at the outset of the initial outbreaks.

MERS and A(H7N9) infections have stalled; however the threat of the viruses still persists and the World Health Organization is predicting both strains might regain momentum as we move towards flu season.

H7N9 and MERS Virus

MERS

Globally, since September 2012, there have been a total of 81 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS; as of July 12, 2013, 45 people have died from the virus.

The MERs virus is mainly active in the Middle East, but has been identified in 8 countries.  The Public Health Agency of Canada recently updated their disease reports that the risk to Canadians is low; however, it is still not yet known how people become infected with the MERs virus.  Canadian federal and provincial laboratories have been testing specimens and there are currently no cases in Canada to report.

A(H7N9)

New A(H7N9) infections remain low.  To date, there have been a total of 133 laboratory-confirmed cases, including 43 deaths.

There is still no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.  However, the World Health Organization reports that until the source of the infection has been identified and controlled, that there will likely be more infections.

There are still no cases of the infection in Canada and this particular strain has not been detected in birds in Canada. The risk to Canadians remains low.

Key Alerts

  • July 4 – WHO issues new A(H7N9) assessments and guidance – available here
  • July 11 – The WHO releases an update on the MERS virus – available here

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

In short, MERS and A(H7N9) remain a threat because doctors and scientists know very little about the two diseases and how they spread.  The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to work with its national and international partners, including the WHO, to monitor and share information.  The PHAC continues to track the spread of flu illness in Canada.  Two of the agency’s personnel are currently partaking in the WHO’s working group of technical experts to review different aspects of the MERs and A(H7N9) outbreak events.

Further, research is being conducted in the agency’s national microbiology lab (NML) to determine antibodies that react against the viruses to better determine when someone is infected.  The NML is also developing and testing several vaccines to determine if they provide protection against the viruses.

Canadian health officials remind Canadians that there is very little risk of catching either virus in Canada.

No restrictions have been placed on trade or travel.

Statistics

  • Total A(H7N9) confirmed cases: 133
  • Total A(H7N9) fatalities: 43
  • Total MERS confirmed cases: 81
  • Total MERS fatalities: 45

Additional Information

Thank you for checking our weekly summary, please check back next week for another update. For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm

 

MERS and H7N9 Emerging Infectious Disease Update

There have been several new developments in the past week with respect to the MERS virus, including several additional infections.  Reported cases of A(H7N9) infections continue to diminish. 

H7N9

MERS

The ‘Middle East Respiratory Syndrome’ is garnering significant attention from the medical community around the world.  This is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been seen in humans before; in people, this type of virus can cause multiple types of illnesses –some leading to death.  Currently, most of the new MERS infections can trace their origins back to Saudi Arabia; however, experts are still unsure about how the virus is spreading – investigations are well underway.

The MERS virus can transmit from human-to-human, but the mechanism by which the virus is transmitted is unknown.

As of May 30, 2013, the MERS virus has been laboratory-confirmed in 50 patients; 27 people have died from the virus. 

A(H7N9)

New laboratory-confirmed infections of A(H7N9) are still infrequent.  Since our last update, there have been 2 additional infections and 1 death, bringing the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 133 and 37 deaths.

The reason for the diminution in A(H7N9) cases is unknown but may reflect the success of control measures in affected areas.  However, given the uncertainty of possible resurgence, health experts are advising ongoing vigilance.

Key Alerts

  • May 29 – The WHO releases an updated statement on the MERS virus – available here
  • May 23 – The WHO releases an updated statement on the A(H7N9) virus – available here
  • May 23 – The WHO releases an FAQ page about the MERS virus – available here.

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

New cases of A(H7N9) are infrequent; however, there is general consensus from the international medical community that the MERS virus poses a significant threat to human health on a global scale should it begin to mutate.

MERS does have the ability to spread to human-to-human and the WHO has reported several clusters in which human-to-human transmission have been confirmed.  However, researchers are not currently aware of how the virus mutates or how people are becoming infected; until they can determine how it is spread, it’s unlikely they will be able to prevent MERS from spreading.

Canadian health authorities are cautioning travelers to protect themselves against the spread of germs while abroad and asking physicians to remain alert for patients presenting symptoms of severe respiratory illness.

Statistics

  • Total A(H7N9) confirmed cases: 133
  • Total A(H7N9) fatalities: 37
  • Total MERS confirmed cases: 50
  • Total MERS fatalities: 27

Additional Information

Thank you for checking our weekly summary, please check back next week for another update. For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm

 

MERS and H7N9 Emerging Infectious Disease Update

Recently, Iridia Medical has been providing updates on the development of possible emerging viral infections around the world.  We’re currently tracking both the ‘MERS’ and the A(H7N9) virus because of their potential impact on a number of Iridia Medical clients.

H7N9

MERS

In general, most new MERS cases involve men, and the patients’ average age is 56.  There have been no reported cases in Canada and the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg currently has a sample of MERS for testing.  The World Health Organization is currently advising doctors and scientists around the world to stay alert for patients showing signs of severe respiratory infections.

As of May 24, 2013, the MERS virus has been laboratory-confirmed in 44 patients; 22 people have died from the virus. 

A(H7N9)

New laboratory-confirmed infections of A(H7N9) have slowed.  Scientists are currently studying the airborne transmission of the virus in different mammals.  Transmission experiments help scientists understand how the virus might spread in humans –a growing concern of many medical experts.  Although the virus does not spread efficiently from mammal to mammal, researchers in Hong Kong have confirmed that the A(H7N9) virus can be transmitted through the air.  Although there are hundreds of suspected A(H7N9) infections, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases, as of May 23, 2013, is 131 and 36 people have succumbed to the virus. 

Key Alerts

  • May 23 – Updates from the World Health Organization (MERS) available here.
  • May 23 – Global News BC updates Canadians on the MERS virus- available here.
  • May 23 – ‘The A(H7N9) inches closer to human-to-human transmission’ available here.

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

In general, new cases of both viruses are infrequent.  Expert researchers around the world agree that there is no strong evidence of human-to-human transmission in the case of either the MERS or A(H7N9) virus; however, mammal-to-mammal transmission has been conclusively proven in several research environments.  The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently classifying the A(H7N9) virus as a ‘foreign animal disease agent;’ the virus is currently considered a ‘Risk Group 3’ human and animal pathogen.

Statistics

  • Total A(H7N9) confirmed cases: 131
  • Total A(H7N9) fatalities: 32
  • Total MERS confirmed cases: 44
  • Total MERS fatalities: 22

Additional Information

Thank you for checking our weekly summary, please check back next week for another update. For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm

 

 

MERS and H7N9 Emerging Infectious Disease Update

Introduction

Recently, Iridia Medical has been providing updates on the development of possible emerging viral infections around the world.

In particular, we’ve been relaying updates to our client audience about developments surrounding the outbreak of the A(H7N9) Avian Influenza Virus in China.  Further, we’ve also begun tracking the now formally defined MERS Coronavirus, or ‘Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.

Iridia has been tracking these developments as they are relevant to a number of our Iridia clients including the following:

  • Fire Rescue Departments – these individuals can be exposed on the front lines to emerging infectious threats, so we attempt to provide current advice on patient care protocols as well as recommendations with respect to limiting occupational exposure.
  • Remote Medical Programs – our paramedics and physicians work in remote camp environments.  These camps are at high-risk for infectious outbreaks; therefore, we need to be prepared should these outbreaks spread to Canada.
  • Critical Infrastructure Preparedness Programs – in the past, we’ve been very involved in developing response plans for the health, banking, transportation, and oil and gas sectors with respect to new influenza strains, including the recent H1N1 outbreak. 

For these reasons, we’ve found it helpful to keep abreast of A(H7N9) and MERS developments overseas so that we are informed and prepared to act should the virus mutate and begin human-human transmission.

MERS

The MERS Coronavirus is primarily zoonotic in nature, meaning its transmission is mostly between animals, but can also infect humans.  Although there have been only 40 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS, nearly half of the cases have been fatal.  Several cases in the Middle East have been reported as well as cases in Europe; there is some evidence of direct human-to-human transmission of the virus.

At the moment, the impact of these viruses is minimal; however, health experts around the world are cautioning that any mutation in these viruses that enables it to transmit from human-to-human could spark a global health emergency.

A(H7N9)

As of today, new laboratory-confirmed infections of A(H7N9) have slowed.  Although there are hundreds of suspected A(H7N9) infections, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases, as of May 16, 2013, is 131 and 32 people have succumbed to the virus.  The MERS virus has been laboratory-confirmed in 40 patients – approximately half have died from the virus. 

MERS and H7N9

Key Alerts

  • May 17 – Updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada – available here.
  • May 17 – Background information on Coronavirus infections can be found here.
  • May 17 – Current updates on the MERS (Novel Corona virus) virus from the World Health Organization can be found here.
  • May 16 – New reports yield clues about A(H7N9) detection – available here.
  • May 10 – The United States CDC further assesses the risk of the A(H7N9) virus – available here.

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

In general, new cases of both viruses are infrequent.  Expert researchers around the world agree that there is no strong evidence of human-to-human transmission in the case of either the MERS or A(H7N9) virus.  The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently classifying the A(H7N9) virus as a ‘foreign animal disease agent;’ the virus is currently considered a ‘Risk Group 3’ human and animal pathogen.

Statistics

  • Total A(H7N9) confirmed cases: 131
  • Total A(H7N9) fatalities: 32
  • Total MERS confirmed cases: 40
  • Total MERS fatalities: 20

Additional Information

Thank you for checking our weekly summary, please check back next week for another update. For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm

 

Weekly H7N9 Virus Update

H7N9

Flu Update
Weekly Avian Influenza A (H7N9) virus update: May 8, 2013

Introduction
Health officials in China have reported several additional A(H7N9) infections since last week; the outbreak’s total laboratory-confirmed infection count is 130 of which 31 people have died from the virus.  On May 5th, China’s Ministry of Agriculture reported that five more poultry samples tested positive for A(H7N9); there is still no strong evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. The World Health Organization is not recommending any travel or trade restrictions.

Key Alerts

  • May 7 – The WHO released an A(H7N9) update yesterday – available here.
  • May 6 – The Public Health Agency of Canada updated Canadians on their current risk management plans with respect to the virus – available here.
  • May 6 – China reports two new A(H7N9) cases – available here.
  • May 1 – Scientists are concerned the virus is killing a fifth of those infected – a Guardian news story is available here.

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations
Of primary concern to most doctors and scientists is the potential for human-to-human transmission of the A(H7N9) virus.  Although new infections are emerging on a weekly basis, most leading centres for disease control are indicating that there is no serious threat for human-to-human transmission.  In particular, the United States Centre for Disease Control has issued a press release noting that this particular strain, at the moment, poses no real threat of launching a pandemic.  Dr. Thomas Frieden, of the US CDC, noted that roughly 2000 people have been exposed to the disease; however, very few of these people became infected with the virus.  Although the current risk assessment of the potential for human-to-human transmission is low, experts are still cautioning that a mutation of the virus could easily enable person-to-person transfer.

Statistics
Total confirmed cases: 130
Total fatalities: 31
Countries with infection – China, Taiwan

Additional Information
Thank you for checking our weekly Avian Influenza summary, please check back next week for Iridia Medical’s update on the A(H7N9) virus.  For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm

Weekly H7N9 Virus Update

Flu Update

Weekly Avian Influenza A(H7N9) virus update: April 30, 2013

Introduction

Several additional laboratory-confirmed human infections with the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus were reported since last week.  Moreover, a new case was reported in Taiwan – the first infection that has occurred outside of China.  There is now a total of 126 laboratory–confirmed A(H7N9) cases including 24 deaths.  There is still no strong evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus; however, there are still some cases where human-to-human transmission has not been ruled out. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States, has warned Chinese health officials that they must be ready for the virus to mutate at any time.

H7N9

Key Alerts

  • April 26 – The Public Health Agency of Canada issued an Avian Influenza  A(H7N9) ‘Interim Guidance’ document to provide infection prevention and control guidance to healthcare organizations in Canada – located here.
  • April 25 – A Global News story on ‘Why the WHO is calling the A(H7N9) one of the ‘most lethal’ flu viruses so far’ can be read here.
  • April 24 – Dr. Keiji Fukuda’s opening statement at the joint press conference on the China-World Health Organization Joint Mission on A(H7N9) can be reviewed here.
  • April 24 – Taiwan reports first case of A(H7N9) infection – available here.

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

Most new A(H7N9) infections have been contained to China; however, a new case was reported in Taiwan this past week. Expert researchers around the world are exploring the possibility of human-to-human transmission as certain cases of A(H7N9) have appeared to be contracted with no exposure to poultry.  Canadian provincial health officers have issued updated preventative procedures for Canadian healthcare organizations and citizens. Moreover, the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently determining if antiviral drugs are effective against the virus; they’re also actively developing and testing new vaccines.  Although there is emerging research that suggests the possibility to human-to-human transmission of the virus, the Public Health Agency of Canada is still reporting that the risk of infection to Canadians is low.

Statistics

  • Total confirmed cases: 126
  • Total fatalities: 24
  • Countries with infection – China, Taiwan

Additional Information

Thank you for checking our weekly Avian Influenza summary, please check back next week on May 6th for next week’s update. For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm

Weekly H7N9 Virus Update

Flu Update

Weekly Avian Influenza A(H7N9) virus update: April 22, 2013

Introduction

China: Several additional laboratory-confirmed human infections with the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus were reported since last week.  The total amount of reported infections is approximately 103 – there have been a total of 20 deaths since the outbreak of the virus.  Chief epidemiologists at the China CDC have announced that approximately 40% of the A(H7N9) patients have had no history of exposure to poultry; this establishes the need for a wider investigation into how the disease is being spread.

Key Alerts

  • April 18Experts gather to focus on H7N9 bird flu transmission mystery – CTV News story – available here.
  • April 17An additional 19 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus are reported in various Chinese provinces – available here.
  • April 12 – The Canadian Public Health Agency issued an updated press release noting the low risk of the A(H7N9) virus to Canadians; however, cautioned Canadians to take preventative measures to protect themselves from influenza – available here.
  • April 11 – The National Health and Family Planning Commission notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an additional 10 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with A(H7N9) virus here.
h7n9

H7N9 spread as of April 15th 2013

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

China has now seen 103 A(H7N9) laboratory confirmed infections – 20 have succumbed to the illness.  Researchers in China are currently exploring the possibility of human-to-human transmission as certain cases of A(H7N9) have appeared to be contracted with no exposure to poultry.  Canadian provincial health officers have stated that the level of risk to Canadians is still considered to be low, with reported cases limited to several different provinces in China.  Canada does not import raw poultry from China, thereby further reducing the possible risk of the virus spreading.  However, Canadian health authorities are still recommending Canadians practice good hand hygiene and washing hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into your sleeve, and staying home when sick to reduce your chance of getting sick or passing illness on to others.

Statistics

  • Total confirmed cases: 103
  • Total fatalities: 20
  • Countries with infection – China

Additional Information

Thank you for checking our weekly Avian Influenza summary, please check back for future updates. For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm

What is the H7N9 Virus?

April 11, 2013 Update

Human Infection with influenza A (H7N9) virus in China

Introduction

Over the past two of weeks there have been a number of people infected with the lesser-known H7N9 virus in China.  The H7N9 is a subtype of the Influenza A virus and normally circulates amongst bird populations with some variants known to occasionally infect humans.  The H7N9 virus was first reported to have infected humans earlier this year.

H7N9

Key Alerts

  • April 2 – China reports 4 cases of the new H7N9 bird flu – View here.
  • April 5 – British Columbia’s provincial health officer releases a statement on H7N9 influenza in China – View here.
  • April 5 – The Public Health Agency of Canada releases a Travel Health Notice for China – View here.
  • April 7 – China closes down multiple live-poultry markets to curb H7N9 spread – View here.
  • April 8 – Poultry sales are halted in more Chinese cities – View here.
  • April 11 – The National Health and Family Planning Commission notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an additional 10 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 virus – View here.

Summary, Risks, and Recommendations

China has seen approximately 33 new H7N9 infections. These new cases have prompted China to close down various poultry markets, urging consumers to “no longer pursue the kind of eating habits where they buy fresh chickens that are butchered on the spot.” However, Canadian provincial health officers have stated that the level of risk to Canadians is currently considered to be low, with reported cases limited to the eastern provinces of China. As well, to date in China, there have been no reported cases of human-to-human transmission. To mitigate risk, it is recommended that we all practice good hand hygiene and washing hands regularly, coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and staying home when sick to reduce your chance of getting sick or passing illness on to others.

Statistics

  • Total confirmed cases: 38
  • Total fatalities: 10
  • Countries with infection – China

Additional Information

Thank you for checking our weekly Avian Influenza summary, please check back for future weekly updates. For more information, please visit http://www.bccdc.ca/default.htm