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Two antivirals protect monkeys from MERS infection

on Mon, 09/09/2013 - 11:59

Interferon-alpha 2b (IFN-α2b) and Ribavirin are two licensed antiviral drugs that protects monkeys from MERS virus, as reported by a research team from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in cooperation with Canadian and French scientists.

The study, published in the September 8 edition of Nature Medicine, confirmed previous experiments that led to hypothesize that a combination of these two antivirals, routinely used together to treat viral diseases such as hepatitis C, could be effective against the novel β coronavirus that, so far, has caused 108 human cases of


Bird flu outbreak in a poultry farm in Ferrara (Italy)

on Sat, 08/17/2013 - 10:09

An outbreak of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus struck a commercial farm of layer hens near Ferrara, Italy. The farmer timely informed about suspect clinical signs, thus allowing the detection of the disease. The diagnostic tests were performed by the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute and by the National Laboratory in Padua, and revealed that the virus belong to the H7 subtype, whilst further diagnostic examination to determine its N type are ongoing.

A protection zone of 3 km and a surveillance zone of 10 km have been established around the farm, which is under restriction.

First TELLME model building workshop held

on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 20:30

One of the outputs from the TELLME project is to be a simulation model to investigate the way in which communication impacts on people’s decisions to adopt protective behaviour such as vaccination or hand hygiene, and hence reduces the spread of an epidemic. The model will codify existing knowledge about different types of communication and their influence and allow users to test out the effect of different approaches.

The reports from WP1 and WP2 and the references they drew from already contain some of this knowledge, but more concrete detail is required for a model.

Digital Epidemiology as a tool against H7N9

on Fri, 07/05/2013 - 09:37

A recent paper on the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted some of the features that make H7N9 – the bird flu virus now circulating in China – a healthcare case that deserves attention. The first is a diffuse lack of immunity against this strain, due to the scarce exposure on a large scale to hemagglutinin 7 (H7) and neuraminidase 9 (N9) antigens. The second are some genomic signs of adaptation to mammals. The third is the difficulty to spot it in bird flocks, due to its low pathogenicity in birds.

H7N9 is thus a potential danger that requires new and powerful tools, and digital

Health security across the borders

on Thu, 07/04/2013 - 12:20

Most of the main threats to our health do not respect national borders, as clearly proved by the novel Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). For this reason, on July 3rd the European Parliament voted in favour of the Decision on Serious Cross-border Threats to Health, a Directive that includes common procedures and standards for a better coordination between EU countries against communicable diseases and health threats caused by chemical, biological or environmental events.

The European Commission stressed the importance of preparedness planning, risk assessment, risk

Internet and outbreak: a qualitative study

on Sat, 06/08/2013 - 09:13

A group of researcher from the National Coordination Centre for Outbreak Management, Netherlands, carried out an empirical and qualitative study to evaluate the use of the web during the enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) outbreak that occurred in Germany in 2011. For one month during the outbreak, a total of 18 participants were asked to keep a diary, which was integrated with a demographic survey before the beginning of the study and a questionnaire at the end.

The results of this study, published on the Journal of medical Internet research, revealed that Internet was the most popular medium

The new Sars in Italy

on Sat, 06/01/2013 - 09:07

After France, Germany and United Kingdom, a laboratory-confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus (NCoV) has been reported in Italy. The patient is a 45-year-old man who had been travelling in Jordan; he was recovered in a hospital in Tuscany with high fever, cough and breathing difficulties and is now in good condition. The NCoV virus has been renamed MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus); it first appeared in Saudi Arabia, in September 2012, and has infected 50 persons so far, 30 of which have died.

New information on transmission modalities for H7N9 virus

on Tue, 05/28/2013 - 18:33

A team from the University of Hong Kong evaluated the infectivity of the H7N9 avian flu virus, discovering some relevant issues. First of all, it came out that, although there was no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, H7N9 may infect pigs, thus proving to be transmissible in mammals. By combining with pig viruses, new variants can be generated and this could represent a potential danger. Also, the bird flu virus that is now circulating in China can be transmitted through airborne exposure and not only by close contact with infected individuals.

Global warming and virus

on Thu, 05/16/2013 - 11:35

A new study commissioned by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) revealed that global warming trends might be considered as drivers of the outbreaks of West Nile Fever (WNF) in humans that Europe experienced in the summer of 2010. As evidenced by the study, which involved several research institutions from Greece, Romania, Hungary, Sweden and Israel, rising temperatures play a more considerable role than humidity in the spread of the disease, whilst the effect of the rain was found to be not significant. These results has been published on PLOS ONE and one of the

An update on the new coronavirus

on Tue, 05/14/2013 - 15:17

The World Health Organization informed that a new case of infection of the novel coronavirus (NCoV) has been reported in France by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. This is the second French patient being infected by the new virus since its first appearances in Saudi Arabia, in September 2012.
The first one is a man with a history of travel to Dubai and an underlying medical condition. He was confirmed on 7 May 2013 by Institut Pasteur and is currently hospitalized.