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December 2015

Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal

Highlights: Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 21, No. 12, December 2015

The articles of interest summarized below will appear in the December 2015 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s monthly peer-reviewed public health journal. This issue will feature Ebola. The articles are embargoed until November 12, 2015, at 12 p.m. EDT (unless otherwise noted).

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.

Identifying and Reducing Remaining Stocks of Rinderpest Virus, Keith Hamilton et al.

Although Rinderpest was a devastating viral disease of animals, with outbreaks leading to food shortages, economic losses, social unrest, and disrupted transport networks, a global effort ultimately led to the world being declared free from rinderpest in 2011. However, potentially infectious rinderpest virus still remains in laboratory specimens stored in at least 27 laboratories and research and diagnostic facilities across the world. Retaining those stocks poses a risk for disease recurrence should the virus escape from its storage site. To identify the precise locations of remaining rinderpest materials, the World Organisation for Animal Health conducted surveys during 2013–2015. Their goal is for all rinderpest material to be either destroyed or secured in an approved facility. However, survey results found that rinderpest material is stored in an unacceptably high number of facilities and countries. The Organisation will continue to monitor destruction and storage of rinderpest material while encouraging the archiving of genetic information for future research.


Catherine Bertrand Ferrandis, OIE Press Officer

Toxoplasma gondii Infection in Wild Red Squirrels, the Netherlands, 2014, Marja Kik et al.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can have severe health consequences for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Transmission usually occurs when food or water contaminated with parasite eggs is ingested or when the infection is passed on from a mother to a fetus through the placenta. In the Netherlands, where feral cats are numerous, after reports of red squirrels “dropping dead from trees” in September 2014, an investigation detected an outbreak of toxoplasmosis among squirrels. The source of the infection remains unknown; however, parasite eggs in cat feces may have contaminated the squirrels’ food (nuts, fungi, shoots, and berries). Determining the exact source of infection is important because people also harvest, and consume, wild fruits, nuts, and fungi from the same areas.


Marja Kik|
Dutch Wildlife Health Centre, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University

Zoonotic Leprosy in the Southeastern United States, Rahul Sharma et al.

(THIS ARTICLE IS NOT EMBARGOED and is already available online: )

In the United States, leprosy is very rare, with only about 200 new cases each year. About 95 percent of the human population is naturally immune. The only proven animal source of infection is the nine-banded armadillo. Previous research found infected armadillos mainly in Texas and Louisiana, but the range of infected armadillos is expanding. A recent screening of 645 armadillos from 8 locations in the southeastern United States found infected armadillos at each location. Among 52 leprosy patients from the southeastern United States, 22 of them were infected with 1 of the 2 strains of the M. leprae bacteria associated with armadillos. The emergence of leprosy among armadillos in southeastern states suggests that the range of the disease will eventually expand along with the range of armadillos. Although the risk for contracting leprosy through exposure to armadillos is extremely low, the public and physicians should be made aware of this possibility to help with prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of this curable disease.


David Bowman
HRSA Office of Communications

Vectorborne Transmission of Leishmania infantum from Hounds, United States, Robert G. Schaut et al.

(THIS ARTICLE IS NOT EMBARGOED and is already available online: )

Leishmaniasis is a tropical disease caused by infection with Leishmania parasites, which are spread to people by the bite of an infected sand fly. The most common forms are visceral leishmaniasis (which affects several internal organs) and cutaneous leishmaniasis (which causes skin sores). In the United States, a species of Leishmania parasite that causes visceral leishmaniasis circulates among hounds used for hunting. Previous evidence has indicated that spread of these parasites among hounds is from mother to pups (vertical transmission) rather than by sand fly bites (vectorborne transmission). However, experimental work reported in the December issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases showed that sand flies that had fed on infected hounds were capable of supporting the parasite and spreading it to hamsters. This vectorborne transmission from hounds (and possibly coyotes and foxes) to another mammalian species indicates a possible risk for spread to companion dogs and people in the United States. Because no vaccines or drugs to prevent infection are available, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid insect bites.


Christine A. Petersen
University of Iowa Department of Epidemiology