Saturday January 18, 2020

WHO Calls for Better Vaccination Coverage Against Increasing Number of Measles Cases

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe

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Steve Sierzega receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., March 27, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first three months of the year compared to last year, the World Health Organization reported Monday.

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe in the January-to-March period. WHO called for better vaccination coverage against measles, which can kill or leave a child disabled for life.

Over recent months, WHO said spikes in the disease have occurred “in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States … as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.”

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Public health authorities worry about outbreaks in communities where vaccination rates are low, fueled by a growing movement of people who view the MMR vaccine, mumps and rubella as dangerous. VOA

“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend,” WHO said. “Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases.”

The agency said the reported number of cases often lags behind the number of actual cases, meaning that the number of documented cases likely does not reflect the actual severity of the measles outbreaks.

For three weeks in a row, U.S. health authorities have added dozens of new reports of measles to its yearly total, now at 555, the biggest figure in five years. Twenty of the 50 U.S. states have now reported measles cases.

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

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More than half of the U.S. total — 285 cases — have been reported in New York City. Officials in the country’s largest city last week ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak that has been concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city’s Brooklyn borough.

City health department officials blamed anti-vaccine propagandists for distributing misinformation in the community. (VOA)

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This New Device Helps in Capturing and Identifying Virus

New device to capture and identify viruses developed

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Researchers have developed a fast and inexpensive handheld device that can capture virus. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Researchers have developed a device to quickly capture and identify various strains of virus.

“We have developed a fast and inexpensive handheld device that can capture viruses based on size,” said study researcher Mauricio Terrones from Penn State University.

“Our device uses arrays of nanotubes engineered to be comparable in size to a wide range of viruses. We then use Raman spectroscopy to identify the viruses based on their individual vibration,” Terrones added.

This device, called a VIRRION, has a wide range of possible uses. For farmers, for example, early detection of a virus in the field can save an entire crop. Early detection of a virus in livestock can save a herd from illness. Humans also will benefit by the detection of viruses in minutes rather than in days with current methods.

According to the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, because of its size and low cost, such a device would be useful in every doctor’s office as well as in remote locations when disease outbreaks occur.

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The device uses arrays of nanotubes engineered to be comparable in size to a wide range of viruses. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Currently, virologists estimate that 1.67 million unknown viruses are in animals, a number of which can be transmitted to humans. Known viruses, such as H5N1, Zika and Ebola have caused widespread illness and death.

The World Health Organisation states that early detection can halt virus spread by enabling rapid deployment of countermeasures. “Most current techniques require large and expensive pieces of equipment,” Terrones said.

“The VIRRION is a few centimeters across. We add gold nanoparticles to enhance the Raman signal so that we are able to detect the virus molecule in very low concentrations. We then use machine learning techniques to create a library of virus types,” Terrones added.

According to the researchers, the VIRRION enables the rapid enrichment of virus particles from any type of sample — environmental or clinical — which jump-starts viral characterisation. This has applications in virus emergence, virus discovery and in diagnosis.

“We synthesized a gradient of aligned carbon nanotube forest arrays to capture different viruses according to their size and detect them in-situ using Raman spectroscopy,” said study lead author Ying-Ting Yeh.

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“We designed and assembled a portable platform that enriches virus particles from several milliliters of clinical samples in a couple of minutes,” Ting Yeh added.

“We hope to use this device for the capture and sequencing of single virions, giving us a much better handle on the evolution of the virus in real time,” said Elodie Ghedin from New York University. (IANS)