Communicable disease threats report, Week 31, 26 July - 1 August 2015

Publication series: Communicable Disease Threats Report (CDTR)
Time period covered: 26 July - 1 August 2015

​The ECDC communicable disease threats report is a weekly bulletin intended for epidemiologists and health professionals in the area of communicable disease prevention and control. Summarising information gathered by ECDC through its epidemic intelligence activities regarding communicable disease threats of concern to the European Union, it also provides updates on the global situation and changes in the epidemiology of communicable diseases with potential to affect Europe, including diseases that are the focus of eradication efforts.

Executive summary

This issue covers the period 26 July to 1 August 2015 and includes updates on a fatal case of anthrax following animal exposure in Bulgaria, cases of cutaneous diphtheria reported in the EU, louse-borne relapsing fever in the Netherlands and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Fatal case of anthrax following animal exposure in Bulgaria

On 21 July, Bulgaria reported a fatal case of B. anthracis in a 53-year-old breeder of sheep and cows who died on 17 July in Varna after having slaughtered a sick animal. Further investigations revealed that a meat-processing plant used the contaminated meat. The plant was closed and disinfected and all products were confiscated.

No new human cases were reported during the past week. However, the risk of further infections occurring in humans cannot be excluded if they come into direct contact with, and slaughter, infected animals. The cases in domestic animals might still increase in the Varna area.

Cutaneous diphtheria

Denmark, Germany and Sweden reported seven cases of toxigenic cutaneous diphtheria and two cases of non-toxigenic cutaneous diphtheria among refugees in 2015. These cases don’t currently represent a significant outbreak, but cutaneous diphtheria is a potential risk factor for transmission of diphtheria.

Louse-borne relapsing fever in the Netherlands

Two cases of louse-borne relapsing fever found among asylum seekers coming from Eritrea were reported by the Netherlands. They are not unexpected as the disease is present in north-eastern Africa. Body lice infestations are linked to low socioeconomic status, over-crowding and poor personal hygiene. In Europe, populations at risk for body lice infestations, and hence louse-borne diseases, include the homeless and migrants. The risk for occurrence of LBRF is limited to these risk groups.
ECDC published a rapid risk assessment and has prepared a factsheet on louse-borne relapsing fever.

Ebola virus disease

According to the latest WHO situation report published on 29 July 2015, seven confirmed cases of ebola virus disease were reported in the week up to 26 July: four in Guinea and three in Sierra Leone. Liberia has reported no new cases. This is the lowest weekly number in over a year, and comes after eight consecutive weeks during which case incidence had plateaued at between 20 and 30 cases per week.
On 31 July, WHO announced positive preliminary results of an Ebola vaccine efficacy trial in Guinea. Read the ECDC comment on this announcement.