FDA approves Q Fever test for troops in Middle East; CDC scientists have new information about Chronic Wasting and other “prion” diseases; Cuba to host annual workshop on Dengue Fever; Connecticut hospital creating Lyme Disease database; and Rabies reports from Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

A massive sandstorm cloud rolls over Al Asad, Iraq, just before nightfall. Courtesy U.S. Marine Corps.

U.S. Military 05/22/11 emaxhealth.com: by Deborah Mitchell – Overseas military personnel now have a test* to diagnose the early stages of Q fever, an emerging infectious disease among US soldiers serving in Iraq and other locations worldwide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the test to be used on the Defense Department’s Joint Biological Agency Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS). Q fever is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be passed from animals to people. Q fever, also known as goat fever, is caused by bacteria called Coxiella burnetii, which is carried by goats, cattle, and sheep and deposited into the soil through feces. People can get Q fever when they inhale dust that has been contaminated. The mortality rate is 1 to 2 percent.  The FDA has now approved the first nucleic acid amplification test, which can identify and detect Coxiella burnetii within four hours. A multiple use instrument called the JBAIDS, which rapidly detects numerous bacteria and viruses in the blood, will be used to test military personnel. Only Department of Defense labs equipped with the JBAIDS can administer the test. When Q fever is diagnosed early, most people can fully recover after being treated with the appropriate antibiotics. Anyone who fails to be treated can develop serious chronic illness. Chronic Q fever develops in less than 1 percent of people who have acute disease, but people who are immunosuppressed, who have a pre-existing heart valve disorder, or who are pregnant are at greater risk for chronic Q fever. In May 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory, asking physicians to evaluate people who have returned from Iraq if they have indications of Q fever infections, which include fever, hepatitis, and pneumonia. Development of the new test for Q fever for military personnel is critical because “Q fever bacteria is considered a biothreat agent in part due to the fact that fewer than 10 organisms need to be inhaled to cause infection and its ability to withstand open environments,” according to Jeffrey Shuren, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  * The test was developed by Idaho Technology Inc, based in Salt Lake City.

Global 05/23/11 usnews.com: HealthDay – U.S. researchers have new information about how humans are exposed to “prion” diseases, which are rare, progressive conditions that affect brain function, such as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as “mad cow disease.” The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that eating wild deer meat (venison) is one of the most common ways people are exposed to these serious, debilitating diseases. “While prion diseases are rare, they are generally fatal for anyone who becomes infected. More than anything else, the results of this study support the need for continued surveillance of prion diseases,” the study’s lead investigator Joseph Y. Abrams, of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a journal news release. “But it’s also important that people know the facts about these diseases, especially since this study shows that a good number of people have participated in activities that may expose them to infection-causing agents,” Abrams added.

Elk with CWD

In examining the results of a 2006-2007 population survey conducted by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), CDC researchers were able to track how participants may have been exposed to prion diseases, including:

  • Travel to countries where bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow”) is known to be widespread, including the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.
  • Hunting for deer or elk — especially in regions where chronic wasting disease is considered common (northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and southwestern Nebraska).
  • The consumption of venison — particularly deer meat obtained in the wild.

The investigators found that 29.5 percent of those polled traveled to at least one of the nine countries where bovine spongiform encephalopathy was widespread, with the United Kingdom being the most common destination (19.4 percent of survey participants). Travelers to the United Kingdom were also more likely to stay longer. In fact, nearly one-quarter remained in the country for at least a month. Moreover, 18.5 percent of those polled hunted for deer and 1.2 percent hunted for elk in regions known for chronic wasting disease. Venison was eaten by 67.4 percent of those surveyed. Of those who ate deer meat, 88.6 percent got it from the wild.

Based on these findings, the CDC researchers concluded that hunters in these areas should protect themselves from exposure to chronic wasting disease by taking the following steps: do not eat meat from sickly deer or elk; don’t eat brain or spinal cord tissues; minimize the handling of brain and spinal cord tissues; and wear gloves when field-dressing carcasses. “The 2006-2007 FoodNet population survey provides useful information should foodborne prion infection become an increasing public health concern in the future. The data presented describe the prevalence of important behaviors and their associations with demographic characteristics. Surveillance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, chronic wasting disease and human prion diseases are critical aspects of addressing the burden of these diseases in animal populations and how that may relate to human health,” Abrams concluded. For more information:  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers detailed information on prion diseases.

International:

Cuba 05/23/11 cubaheadlines.com: by Tomas Armenteros Crespo – Havanna – Cuba has announced the 12th International Workshop on Dengue and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, hosted by the Pedro Kouri Institute for Tropical Medicine, will be held in August. The workshop is organized by the institute’s Pan-American Health Organization/WHO coordinating center, and is dedicated to Professor Gustavo Kouri Flores, who until his death on May 5, was the founder and director of the institute. The two-week workshop is aimed at increasing capacities for controlling and preventing dengue, in the light of the latest information and experiences. Issues to be covered include clinics, epidemiology, virology, immunology, vector control, environmental factors and community participation, according to the initial program, avaialble on the website Infomed.

Dr. Gustavo Kouri Flores

Scientists and collaborators from organizations that are leading dengue fever studies are expected at the workshop, sponsored by the Cuban Public Health Ministry, the PAHO/WHO and the WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. A pandemic of dengue fever, a viral disease carried by mosquitos, began during World War II and intensified from the 1970s. Hemorrhagic dengue is the most dangerous version of the disease, and has spiraled to more than 2.5 billion people at risk, nearly 50 million cases, and 250 to 500 severe cases each year. Currently, the disease is reported in South East Asia, the Western Pacific, the Americas and Mediterranean countries, and increase in the number of epidemics has been seen in Africa.

Connecticut 05/22/11 patch.com: by Debra Siepmann – A Danbury Hospital pilot program that studies Lyme disease will continue this summer in an attempt to find answers as the debate over diagnosing symptoms of Lyme, treating the disease and its chronic symptoms continues between health care professionals and patients. Amber Butler, who works for the Laura and Dale Kutnick Lyme Disease Research Center along with physicians’ assistants at the emergency room, is part of a research team that “recruits” Lyme disease patients coming to the ER. She wants them to take part in a study to help create a database. The program began last summer. (For complete article go to http://monroe.patch.com/articles/lyme-controversy-continues-2 )

Pennsylvania 05/22/11 centredaily.com: by Mike Dawson – Pleasant Gap – Eight-year-old Riley Emel thought she was seeing a cat circling the pickup truck in which she and a friend were playing in during the dusk hours of May 13. But it wasn’t a cat. It was a fox. When it attacked, Riley, a third-grader at Pleasant Gap Elementary School, didn’t panic. Instead, she protected her 6- year-old friend and neighbor, Katelyn Moyer, shielding her from the attacking animal.  “It was looking at her,” said Riley, who came to face to nose with the fox in the bed of a pickup truck during the ordeal. “And that’s why I was pushing it and making it get off.”  Dawn Dilling, a domestic health inspector for the state Department of Agriculture, said in a written statement that a gray fox exhibiting strange behavior was shot by police the next day near the area in which the two girls were attacked. It subsequently tested positive for rabies.  “We are assuming that this is the same fox that attacked the child in the pickup truck,” she said in the statement that was in a flier delivered Thursday to some homes in Pleasant Gap. (For complete article go to http://www.centredaily.com/2011/05/22/2727583/pleasant-gap-girl-treated-for.html )

Texas 05/23/11 cleburnetimesreview.com: by Pete Kendall – This is the time of year skunks cross the proverbial road in search of other skunks for social purposes … namely breeding. The rabid among them, while crossing the road, may encounter other animals to infect with the deadly (rabies) virus. That would be one way to explain statistics released by Johnson County Sheriff’s Office last week. Since December, a total of seven rabid skunks have been identified in the unincorporated county, along with two rabid horses, one rabid raccoon and one rabid kitten. (For complete article go to http://www.cleburnetimesreview.com/local/x645567872/7-skunks-2-horses-test-positive-for-rabies )

Virginia 05/22/11 wcyb.com: by Bill Rambo – The Tazewell County Health Department has announced that a raccoon captured on May 10 has tested positive for rabies. It’s the second rabid animal found in the county this year. The raccoon was collected in the Litz Lane area of the Burke’s Garden community. Brian Stanley of the Virgnia Department of Health said the raccoon was killed by a resident’s dog. The dog is currently under observation and may not have to be euthanized if no symptoms are shown. No human exposure was reported. The VDOH asks residents to watch their pets for exposure to wild animals or potential signs of rabies. If you think there has been an exposure call the Tazewell County Health Department at (276) 988-5585 or the Tazewell County Animal Control office at (276) 988-4160.

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