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Division of Bacterial Diseases (DBD) News Bulletin

Spring 2013

DBD’s Work Eliminating Epidemic Meningitis Continues: Staff Activities in Ethiopia

By December 2012, over 100 million people living in 9 countries had been vaccinated against meningitis with MenAfriVac®, the novel serogroup A meningococcal conjugate vaccine. This affordable, 40 cents a dose vaccine, holds great promise to end epidemic meningitis as a public health concern in sub-Saharan Africa. MenAfriVac® is being introduced in a two-pronged strategy across the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa, which stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia: first, preventive mass-vaccination campaigns in the age groups at highest risk (ages 1–29 years) to induce herd immunity in the population and reduce transmission, and then integration of the vaccine into routine childhood vaccination programs. It is planned that all 26 countries in the meningitis belt will have introduced MenAfriVac® by 2016.

Rapid assessment team on location in Ethiopia

Heading out to work on a rapid assessment of Ethiopia’s meningitis surveillance system are (left to right) Ethiopia Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program Resident Abochet, Jessica MacNeil, EISO Anna Acosta, EISO Hajime Kamiya, and Israel Tareke from WHO-Ethiopia.

CDC’s work in meningitis prevention spans several decades, and staff from the Meningitis and Vaccine Preventable Diseases Branch (MVPDB) continue to routinely travel to sub-Saharan Africa to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities to strengthen epidemiologic and laboratory capacity in order to provide high quality surveillance data for bacterial meningitis. To measure the impact of MenAfriVac® and demonstrate vaccine effectiveness, strong surveillance with timely laboratory confirmation of the pathogens causing meningitis is critical.

MVPDB staff are now ramping up to support Ethiopia during the country’s first mass vaccination campaigns with MenAfriVac® in the last quarter of 2013. A phased approach of vaccine introduction is planned, with the entire country being vaccinated over three years. Staff are collaborating with WHO, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and the Ethiopian Health & Nutrition Research Institute to improve meningitis surveillance prior to Ethiopia’s MenAfriVac® introduction.

MVPDB’s Amanda Cohn and Jessica MacNeil attended the “Meningococcal Vaccines for Africa” project kick-off meeting in Addis Ababa in January 2013. Then between February 25 and March 8, 2013, a rapid assessment of the meningitis surveillance system was carried out by Jessica MacNeil, Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers (EISO) Anna Acosta and Hajime Kamiya, and country partners. This assessment will aid in staff understanding of the current surveillance system for meningitis and inform subsequent surveillance strengthening activities in Ethiopia.

Prior to MenAfriVac® implementation in Ethiopia, MVPDB epidemiology and laboratory staff plan to conduct several workshops and trainings. A surveillance workshop and laboratory assessments are planned for June, followed by a data management and real-time PCR training this fall.

Legionnaires’ Disease Goes to Washington

Lauri Hicks giving testimony on tv

A hearing was held by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on February 5, 2013, in Washington, DC. Lauri Hicks (RDB, left) testified on behalf of NCIRD in the hearing titled “Analyzing VA’s actions to prevent Legionnaires’ disease in Pittsburgh.”

Director’s Spotlight

Regards from Rana…

Dear colleagues,

Bill Gates and Rana Hajjeh at Global Vaccine Summit

Bill Gates and Rana Hajjeh talk at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE on April 24, 2013. The summit was co-hosted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Bill Gates, in partnership with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to continue the momentum of the Decade of Vaccines, a vision and commitment from global partners to reach all children with the vaccines they need.

Over the last few months, I had the chance to participate in various meetings and site visits where DBD’s work received significant recognition for its high scientific quality and important public health impact. Our recent work has guided vaccine policy in the U.S. for pertussis and pneumococcal disease, for Hib vaccine worldwide, pneumococcal and pertussis vaccines in the Americas, and meningococcal vaccine in Africa. DBD has also continued to support building laboratory capacity worldwide for vaccine-preventable bacterial diseases, in collaboration with WHO. Our staff have investigated multiple outbreaks, some that were politically quite complex, like the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Pittsburgh, requiring not only strong technical skills, but also great communication skills!

We continue to do all this in spite of a restrained fiscal environment, using all we got, whether it is traditional African carvings or innovative electronic platforms such as apps, and being conscious of environmental and energy needs! As the weather in Atlanta is finally warming up and spring is here, I hope this will bring even more “positive energy” to our division, and I welcome our new staff, including our four new EIS officers who will join us in July. I thank you all for the ongoing great work, and I have special thanks and best wishes for our employees who have either retired or are moving on to new careers.


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