Emerging Viral Outbreaks

Last Friday, May 2, at around 3 PM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta held a press conference about the first detected case in the United States related to the coronavirus known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

According to the CDC press release, the case was confirmed in someone who traveled to the United States from the Middle East in late April, first to Chicago and then to Indiana. To date, the release notes, there have been 401 confirmed MERS cases across 12 countries. The transcript of the agency’s press briefing on the issue can be found here.  A link to the badge material to the right can be found here.

June 5 will be the 33rd anniversary of the 1981 publication of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) which carried the first notice about a series of rare cases of pneumonia in five previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles.  Less than a month later, the New York Times carried an article about 41 cases of a rare cancer seen in gay men.  These were the first reports of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, though it was not called that yet.  By the end of that year, there were 270 cases of immune deficiency reported with 121 deaths.  We all know the ultimate story of numbers and scope.

While MERS received headlines in the U.S. on Friday, it is one of many pathogens that have been worth noting.  There as also been an active outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa and there has been on-going watch over cases of H7N9 influenza in Asia, primarily in China.

For those interested in tracking these pathogens other than when they hit headlines, the World Health Organization provides regular updates on these and other troublesome outbreaks through its Global Alert and Response (GAR) System.  GAR provides resources where you can look at profiles of individual countries; check out profiles of specific diseases; or subscribe to regular updates via Disease Outbreak News which provides nearly daily updates of reports.  You will get updates number of reported cases, laboratory confirmations, geographies affected, and recommendations.

There is a lot going on in the world.  Big things can cause big problems.  So can microbes. Best to keep an eye on them – thanks to WHO for the resources.

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