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