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Highlights: Emerging Infectious Diseases March 2010


These articles will appear in the March 2010 edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s monthly peer-reviewed public health journal. The articles are embargoed until Feb. 10, 2010, at 12 p.m. ET.

1. Infection of Kissing Bugs with Trypanosoma cruzi, Arizona

Carolina E. Reisenman et al.

Chagas disease has long been a problem in Latin America but in recent years there have been a handful of cases in the United States. Researchers in Arizona set out to see whether kissing bugs in their state are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas in humans. They discovered that almost half of the kissing bugs carry the parasite, higher than was previously thought. They speculated that some of the reasons why Chagas is uncommon in Arizona include: maybe houses are secure enough to keep the bugs from establishing colonies; maybe doctors are misdiagnosing the infection; the insects may not be efficient at transmitting the parasite or maybe the parasite might not be as severe as strains found in countries where Chagas is a health problem. However, because the kissing bugs in Arizona carry the parasite at higher rates than previously known, the risk of Chagas in humans is higher than previously thought.

Dr. Carolina E. Reisenman
Department of Neuroscience, College of Science, University of Arizona

2. Cost of West Nile Virus Outbreak, Sacramento County, California 2005

Loren M. Barber et al.

How much does an outbreak cost, especially an outbreak of a disease with no effective treatment? When disease caused by West Nile virus reached epidemic level in Sacramento County, California, officials immediately began an insecticide spraying program to control the mosquitoes that spread of the virus. Researchers calculated the cost of this response, including costs for patients' loss of productivity, for medical treatment, and the cost for spraying. The total estimated cost was $2.98 million, of which medical treatment accounted for $2.28 million. The number of cases prevented was unknown. Researchers determined that preventing only 48 cases would have balanced out the cost of the spraying.

Dr. Robert Peterson, Associate Professor
Montana State University

3. Yersinia spp. Infections, 1996–2007

Cherie Long et al.

Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, a foodborne germ that can cause severe intestinal infection, often with fever and pain that can be bad enough that it can be mistaken for appendicitis, is rare in the United States.  Since it was first reported in this country in 1938, no outbreaks have been reported, and only 14 cases were documented between 1938 and 1973. But when researchers started actively looking for this infection in the United States in 1996, they started finding more cases. The infection remains very rare. From 1996 to 2007, researchers identified 18 cases of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. However, the infections have been serious. Compared with people infected with a more common, related Yersinia germ, people infected with the Yersinia pseudotuberculosis germ were more likely to go to the hospital, to stay there longer, and to die from this infection. Specific tests for Yersinia are rarely done. Thus, the researchers concluded that although it is still rare, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis may be causing more infections than health officials realize.

Contact Dr. Hannah Gould via:
CDC Division of Media Relations

4. Paenibacillus larvae Bacteremia in Injection Drug Users

Siegbert Rieg et al.

When five injection drug users in a detox program in Germany got sick, researchers found that they had an infection caused by a germ that typically infects honey bees, not people. It turns out that the patients had injected methadone intended for oral use only. Methadone is often prepared with thick syrupy substances to make it difficult to inject, and this methadone had been prepared with honey. Yet they were able to inject it anyway, and by so doing, they injected the germ right into their bloodstream. The researchers suggest that doctors and pharmacists need to be aware of this risk when preparing or prescribing methadone made with honey for injection drug users. 

Siegbert Rieg, MD
Center for Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine
University Hospital Freiburg
Freiburg, Germany




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