April 2017

Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal

Highlights: Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 23, No. 5, May 2017
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.

The articles of interest summarized below will appear in the May 2017 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s monthly peer-reviewed public health journal. The articles are embargoed until April 12, 2017, at 12 p.m. EDT.

1. Exposure Characteristics of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Patients, United States, 1993–2015,. Annabelle de St. Maurice et al.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a severe respiratory illness, acquired when excreta from infected rodents comes in contact with a person’s mucosa, such as through inhalation or ingestion. Factors known to increase this risk are living in a rodent-infested home, handling rodents, and cleaning rodent-infested areas. To determine whether risk is higher for people in certain occupations, populations, or locations, researchers analyzed national surveillance system data for 1993–2015. They found that many people who acquired the illness were exposed to rodents at work and that mortality was highest among American Indian women 40-64 years of age. Although hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is rare in the United States, informing and educating people at higher risk might prevent more cases.

Contact:CDC Press Office, 404-639-3286 or media@cdc.gov


2. Anthrax Cases Associated with Animal-Hair Shaving Brushes, Christine M. Szablewski et al.
The renewed popularity of natural shaving brushes made from animal hair has revived interest in historical cases of anthrax linked to these brushes. This serious infectious disease is caused by bacteria (Bacillus anthracis) that are found naturally in soil. It affects domestic and wild animals around the world. Although rare in the United States, anthrax can also affect people who come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. Early in the 20th century, animal hair shaving brushes were sometimes contaminated with Bacillus anthracis and linked to cases of anthrax. In trying to understand why, researchers and public health officials determined that cheap, inadequately disinfected shaving brushes were increasingly available during World War I. When the brush was contaminated with anthrax spores, those spores could enter the human body through minor cuts caused by shaving razors. During the war, the chance that shaving brushes would be contaminated with anthrax spores increased as manufacturers took shortcuts and made cheap brushes to meet an increase in demand. The hair used to make those cheap brushes was often passed off as being the preferred badger hair, although it actually came from other species (often horses, which unlike badgers could have anthrax spores in their hair). Some of the hair might even have come from horses that died of anthrax. Disinfection would have made the brushes safer; however, hair used for fake “badger-hair” brushes was often inadequately disinfected out of concern that the heat needed to disinfect them might discolor the hair and reveal the imitations. Today’s shaving brushes are very unlikely to be a source of anthrax because of modern production processes and import regulations. Well-used vintage brushes are also very unlikely to pose a risk. However, shavers buying unused vintage brushes from that time period should consider this very small risk before using them for shaving.

Contact: CDC Press Office, 404-639-3286 or media@cdc.gov.


3. Survey of Treponemal Infections in Free-Ranging and Pet Macaques, 1999–2012, Amy R. Klegarth, et al.
Yaws is an infectious, disfiguring skin disease that affects mostly children living in unhygienic conditions in the tropics. After successful yaws treatment campaigns during 1950–1965, the disease returned and the World Health Organization mounted a yaws eradication campaign. Yaws is caused by a subspecies of Treponema pallidum bacteria. Treponemal bacteria are usually transmitted through contact with the skin lesion of an infected person. Nonhuman primates that have contact with humans could be exposed to the bacteria. To learn more about this potential role of nonhuman primates, researchers tested the blood of 734 wild and pet macaques in Southeast Asia during 1999–2012. They found that some pet macaques were infected with a Treponema species related to species that infect people. This infection in macaques deserves attention because of the close association between people and their pet macaques, which involves sharing food, space, and physical contact. Thus, efforts to eradicate yaws should include monitoring nonhuman primates for this infection, especially pets, which can be easily assessed and treated.

Address for correspondence: Lisa Jones-Engel, University of Washington, Dept. of Anthropology, 314 Denny Hall, Box 353100, Seattle, WA 98195, USA; email:ljengel@uw.edu.

Page last reviewed: April 12, 2017