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