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Vol. V, No. 05~ EINet News Briefs ~ March 8 , 2002

****A free service of the APEC Emerging Infections Network*****

The EINet listserv was created to foster discussion, networking, and collaboration in the area of emerging infectious diseases (EID's) among academicians, scientists, and policy makers in the Asia–Pacific region. We strongly encourage you to share their perspectives and experiences, as your participation directly contributes to the richness of the "electronic discussions" that occur. To respond to the listserv, use the reply function.

In this edition:
  1. Infectious disease information
  2. Updates
  3. Notices
  4. Journal Articles
  5. How to join the EINet listserve

Below is a semi–monthly summary of Asia–Pacific emerging infectious diseases.


China (Hong Kong) — Variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease
A 35–year–old woman with the first case of variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD) in China died on 20 Feb 2002. Doctors believed the woman contracted the disease when she lived in Britain from 1985 to 1992 and again from 1997 to 2001. She returned to Hong Kong for medical treatment in January 2001.

Japan (Seoul) — Food Poisoning
As of 03 March 2002, 53 Japanese tourists staying at a Seoul hotel were hospitalized after developing food–poisoning symptoms. The patients, employees of a Japanese cosmetic company, were on a four–day training and sightseeing trip in South Korea. According to reports, they ate Korean–style barbecued beef together on 02 March 2002 in Seoul.
[Promed 03/04/02]

US (South Dakota) — Chronic Wasting Disease
The first case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a deadly disease that causes brain damage in deer and elk, was announced on 03 March 2002 in a deer in Fall River County of South Dakota, United States. The disease, which is contagious, but cannot be transmitted to humans or animals other than deer and elk, has previously been detected in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Due to reports of CWD in a Nebraska region 10 miles near the South Dakota border, officials had anticipated the occurrence of CWD in their state and have been monitoring the situation closely for several months. The infected deer was one of 77 to be tested for CWD in Fall River County. An additional 50 to 100 deer in the area will be collected and tested. States with identified CWD cases have not closed down deer or elk hunting seasons and have used informed hunters in a number of deer management units.
[Promed 03/04/02]


Gabon — Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Gabonese Ministry of Public Health and Population reported on 04 March 2002 that 60 cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever had been confirmed in Gabon. Forty–nine of those cases have died. Follow–up continues.
[World Health Organization http://www.who.int/disease–outbreak–news/n2002/march/6march2002.html]

China (Hong Kong) — Avian Influenza
Avian influenza was confirmed on 03 March 2002 in a chicken farm located in Pak Sha, an area outside the Kam Tin quarantine. Officials began slaughtering chickens after 100 were confirmed to have died of H5 influenza. Officials will depopulate the farm in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Twenty–three farms were previously placed under quarantine in the Kam Tin area on 05 Feb 2002 following an outbreak where health workers destroyed 860,000 birds in an effort to prevent the spread of avian influenza disease. The department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation will continue to monitor chicken farms in the Pak Sha area as well as those in other parts of Hong Kong.
[Promed 02/24/02; 03/05/02]

United States — Unexplained Rash
Health departments in the United States have been investigating the occurrence of an unexplained rash that began on 04 Oct 2001 and has been seen in 14 states. The number of affected children ranges from 10 to approximately 600 in each of the 14 states. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the cause of the rash is still unknown. Although still under investigation, CDC officials believe that a common cause of the rashes is unlikely. The rash has been described by the CDC as consisting of reddened spots on the face, neck, hands or arm, sometimes in a network–like pattern. It has been reported to last from a few hours to two weeks and has not accompanied other signs of illness.

The majority of cases have been seen in school children between five and 10 years of age, although a few teachers and school staff have been affected. Investigations at five schools have not revealed any environmental sources, but several children were relieved of the rash when they left school and acquired it again when returning. There are no reports from states that document a common cause or demonstrate existence of the same rash. State and local health departments, in collaboration with CDC, continue to investigate reports of rashes among groups of schoolchildren. It possible that an increase in rashes may be due to increased surveillance, but no comparable data is available prior to October.
[Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2002;51:161𤪔 Reuters Health 02/28/02]


Effectiveness of Diluted Smallpox Vaccine
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated on Sunday 3 Mar 2002 that a study of diluted smallpox vaccines indicates that they are effective. In 1980 the World Health Organization (WHO) had announced that smallpox had been eradicated from the world and recommendations were given to cease vaccination. However, the issue of smallpox vaccination has been re–examined after concerns that smallpox, caused by the variola virus, could be used in a bioterrorist threat. The smallpox virus is easily transmittable and 30 percent of those infected die.

Researches have been studying the effectiveness of diluted smallpox vaccines. The study has been completed, but results have not been published or presented publicly. According to reports, the current U.S. vaccine supply of 15 million doses can be diluted to 150 million doses and retain effectiveness. In addition, a new vaccine from a tissue cell culture will be made by Acambis Inc. in collaboration with Baxter International. It has yet to be determined if or when the general U.S. population would be vaccinated and with what version of vaccine would be used.
[Associated Press 03/03/02]

Development of Ebola Virus Test
A team of scientists from Africa and Europe has developed a new test for Ebola. The test, which can detect the Ebola virus within hours, can be used in the field and may help contain future outbreaks. It is as sensitive as existing laboratory methods and is based on detection of viral genomes in the blood of a suspected case. The virus genes are retained, whereas the virus is inactivated. The test has been tested during epidemics of other tropical diseases such as yellow fever and Lassa fever. Use of the new test is predicted to prevent secondary infection through isolation of infected patients, impede the spread of the virus, and lead to significant reductions in Ebola infection rates.

The Ebola virus was first identified in Africa in 1976 after epidemics in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. Ebola, one of the deadliest viral diseases, spreads through bodily fluids and causes bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Fifty to 90 percent of those who contract it usually die within two weeks.
[Reuters Health 02/26/02]

Lyme Disease Vaccine to be Pulled from Market
GlaxoSmithKline, a drug company based in the United Kingdom, announced on 26 Feb 2001 that it is taking its Lyme disease vaccine, Lymerix, off the U.S. market due to a decline in sales. Lymerix is the only vaccine approved in the United States. for preventing Lyme disease. Infections from Lyme disease, which is caused by the tick–borne bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, have been increasing in the United States in recent years. Despite an increase in infections, sales of Lymerix have been declining since its first year on the market in 1999 when it earned $40 million in peak sales. This is attributed to a reduction in demand for Lyme disease prevention. Glaxo projected that less than 10,000 people would choose to get the vaccine in 2002.
[02/26/02 Reuters Health]

HIV/AIDS Conference in Seattle, Washington
The Ninth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections convened in Seattle, Washington, United States during 24 to 28 Feb 2002. The conference was organized by the Foundation of Retrovirology and Human Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Topics discussed include virology; immunology; vaccines; pathogenesis; primary, acute and opportunistic infection; host–virus interactions; antiretroviral therapy; hepatitis virus co–infections; epidemiology and infection control; pediatrics and maternal–fetal studies; HIV infection in women/women's health; diagnostics; microbicides; clinical pharmacology. Posters and Web casts are now available online at

OIE Extends its Activities in Food Safety and Animal Welfare
The Office International des Epizooties (OIE), an intergovernmental organization created by the International Agreement of 25 Jan. 1924, is broadening and reinforcing its field of activities in relation to food safety and animal welfare. The OIE is a leading international organization that sets standards for animal health and diseases transmissible to humans.

The director general of the OIE will meet with an ad hoc group of world–renowned specialists in order to make appropriate proposals concerning food safety to the OIE member countries. An event in which the OIE feels intervention is necessary may be when an animal disease influences food products for consumption. In addition, an OIE ad hoc group appointed by the director general and comprised of specialists from five continents will meet from 2נ April 2002 in order to discuss the role of OIE in the domain of animal welfare. This includes establishing norms for animal protection at the farm, during transport and at the time of slaughter.
[Promed 03/02/02]


Australia — Metapneumovirus
A multi–center research team in Queensland, Australia has recently reported in the Medical Journal of Australia the identification of a novel virus found in Australian children with respiratory ailments. Presence of the virus, known as human metapneumovirus (hMPV), was previously described in Dutch children. Dutch researchers have shown that the virus has existed for at least 20 years through antibody tests on stored blood samples. Infections with the virus show similar clinical symptoms as in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but generally cause milder lower respiratory tract infections than RSV. RSV can result in pneumonia and is the leading cause of hospital admissions in young children in Australia. Dr. Nissen, director of the Infectious Diseases at the Royal Children's Hospital in Queensland and lead author of the article, hypothesizes that the virus could have crossed from birds to humans. There is no known therapy for the virus and approximately 80 percent of positive tests come from 0 to 5 year olds. Human MPV may go unrecognized because it is a very slow growing virus and difficult to grow in culture. In addition, it is nearly indistinguishable clinically from hRSV infection. While there is currently no routine lab testing for the virus, a rapid test is being developed.
[Medical Journal of Australia 2002;176:188 ; 03/01/02 Reuters Health; Promed 03/05/02]
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