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August 2015

Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal

Highlights: Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 21, No. 8, August 2015

The articles of interest summarized below will appear in the August 2015 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s monthly peer-reviewed public health journal. The articles in this issue, focused on public health surveillance, are embargoed until noon, July 15, 2015.

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.

1. Escherichia coli O157 Outbreaks in the United States, 2003–2012, Katherine E. Heiman et al.

Infections with Escherichia coli O157 can cause severe illness and death.  A recent study found that more E. coli O157 outbreaks were reported during 2003–2012 than during the previous 20 years, probably because of improvements in awareness, laboratory methods, and coordination among public health departments. Contaminated food, especially beef, was the most common source of these outbreaks. Specifically, during the study period, 65% of outbreaks were caused by consumption of contaminated food [30% were caused by contaminated beef]; others were caused by contact with an infected person (10%), an infected animal (10%), or contaminated water (4%). More people required hospitalization (that is, illness was more severe) during outbreaks attributed to foods generally consumed raw (such as leafy greens or unpasteurized milk or juice) than foods generally consumed cooked or pasteurized.  People can help protect themselves from E.coli O157 infection by properly handling raw beef, by thoroughly cooking beef products (to at least 160°F), and by washing hands after contact with animals such as those at petting zoos, fairs, or farms.

Contact Katherine Heiman via:
CDC Press Office
(404) 639-3286

2. Geographic Distribution and Expansion of Human Lyme Disease, United States, Kiersten J. Kugeler et al.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black-legged tick. In the United States, most cases of Lyme disease occur in northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwestern states. CDC researchers developed a method to better quantify areas of highest risk using surveillance data related to human cases. They found that traditional high-risk areas have expanded over time. The expansion might result from changes in weather conditions that favor tick survival or from geographic dispersal of infected ticks by birds and deer. Regardless of the cause, continued expansion of high-risk areas underscores the need for convenient and effective interventions to prevent Lyme disease.

Contact Kiersten J. Kugeler via:
CDC Press Office
(404) 639-3286

3. Human–Bat Interactions in Rural West Africa, Priscilla Anti et al.

Bats carry many viruses that can cause serious and even fatal disease in humans.  As a result, human interactions with bats can lead to infection chains that affect public health. To better understand the motivations for and the extent of human interactions with bats in rural communities in West Africa, researchers examined the cultural practices, sociodemographic factors, and religious activities that bring people into contact with bats in Ghana.  They found that these interactions were diverse and frequent. Some people entered bat caves for traditional or spiritual reasons or for hunting.  Nearly half of the people polled said that they regularly visited bat caves; nearly half had eaten bat meat; and about a third had been bitten or scratched or exposed to bat urine or guano. Rural populations should be educated about the dangers of entering bat caves, participating in the bat meat trade, and eating bat meat. A better understanding of the traditional and spiritual reasons for entering bat caves will be needed before acceptable guidance can be developed.

Christian Drosten
Institute of Virology, University of Bonn, Germany

4. Macrolide-Resistant Mycoplasma pneumoniae, United States, Xiaotian Zheng et al.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a bacterium that causes lung infection and is transmitted from person to person through the air. Although some people recover from the infection on their own without medicine, many patients need to be treated with antibiotics. The preferred antibiotics used to treat these infections are in the class called macrolides (this class includes erythromycin and similar agents); however, resistance to macrolides has been developing in Asia and elsewhere. To determine the extent of macrolide resistance in the United States, researchers tested samples from patients at 6 sites across the country and found resistance to be common. This finding suggests that macrolide resistance is present in the United States and might increase over time as it has in other countries. Although macrolides should remain the drugs of choice for M. pneumoniae respiratory infections in children, clinicians should be vigilant for poor response to treatment and consider using alternative drugs when necessary.  Surveillance for macrolide resistance will help provide data for modifying treatment guidelines as needed.

Julianne Bardele
Senior Consultant, Public Affairs and Communications
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL
(312) 227-4265