March 2014

Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal

Highlights: Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 20, No. 3, (March 2014)


The articles of interest summarized below will appear in the March 2014 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s monthly peer-reviewed public health journal. This issue will feature mycobacterial infections. The articles are embargoed until February 12, 2014, at 12 p.m. EDT.

Note: Not all articles published in EID represent work done at CDC. In your stories, please clarify whether a study was conducted by CDC (“a CDC study”) or by another institution (“a study published by CDC”). The opinions expressed by authors contributing to EID do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CDC or the institutions with which the authors are affiliated.

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1. Hantavirus Infections among Overnight Visitors to Yosemite National Park, California, USA, 2012, J.J. Núñez et al.

Sin Nombre virus, a hantavirus transmitted to people by deer mice, can cause serious infection; one-third of patients die. Thus, an outbreak of Sin Nombre infections among people who had stayed overnight at Yosemite National Park during the summer of 2012 prompted an investigation. A total of 10 patients were identified, among whom eight had serious infection and three died. The common risk factor among nine patients was having stayed in a special type of cabin that had foam-insulated walls. Investigators found that the insulation had been invaded by rodents, known carriers of hantavirus. The cabins were immediately closed to visitors and subsequently dismantled. The key to minimizing risk for hantavirus infection is rodent control and making the public aware that Sin Nombre virus is transmitted by exposure to rodents, specifically deer mice.

Contact Duc J. Vugia via:
Office of Public Affairs
California Department of Public Health

2. Invasive Fungal Infections after Natural Disasters, Kaitlin Benedict and Benjamin J. Park

The potential for adverse health events after natural disasters—such as blunt trauma, lacerations, crush injuries, suffocation, and drowning—is well known. What is not so well known is the potential for fungal infections. Although less common than other types of infections, fungal infections can occur as a natural disaster (such as a tornado, tsunami or earthquake) stirs up the earth, displacing the fungi from their natural habitats. The fungi then end up in areas where they would not normally be found, and susceptible injured people can more easily get fungal infections. Compounding this scenario may be contamination of medical equipment and a disaster-impaired medical care system. Fungal infections can involve the lungs, the skin, and even the nervous system; they can cause serious illness and death. Health care providers should be aware of the possibility of fungal infections among disaster survivors, such as those who have experienced near-drowning, trauma, or other unusual exposure to the environment. Prompt restoration of local health care infrastructure can facilitate earlier diagnosis and treatment and possibly reduce the risk for fungal infection.

Contact Benjamin J. Park via:
CDC Press Office

3. Drought and Epidemic Typhus, Central Mexico, 1655–1918, Jordan N. Burns et al.

Epidemic typhus is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that are transmitted to people by body lice. For centuries, typhus has accompanied war, famine and poverty, which often lead to crowded and unsanitary living conditions. Recently, drought has been added to the list and is believed to be responsible for at least 19 of the 22 typhus epidemics that occurred in Mexico in centuries past. Researchers used two types of data—environmental and archived documents—to determine that drought led to famine, which led to refugee situations. Low moisture in tree rings indicates drought; archived documents indicate that large numbers of refugees fled the drought- and famine-stricken countryside to seek food in towns. These refugees often ended up in improvised shelters, which provided the crowding and unsanitary conditions necessary for the spread of typhus. Epidemic typhus remains a threat in the rural highlands of South America, Africa, and Asia; in areas of Russia, Burundi, Algeria, and Andean Peru; and even in more industrialized regions, such as the United States, Europe, and the Netherlands, where body lice infestations still affect the homeless.

Jordan Burns
Department of Geosciences
University of Arkansas



Page last reviewed: February 11, 2014