The United States is currently experiencing the deadliest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in history, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia and New Jersey.
- District of Columbia: The United States is currently experiencing the deadliest outbreak of HPAI in history. Since February, the virus has caused the death of roughly 52.7 million birds across 46 states, marking the worst outbreak since 2014-2015. During that outbreak, the virus started circulating in the winter and was over by the following June. The current outbreak lasted through this summer and is surging again. "I'm hopeful that this is not the new normal for us," said Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals. "The bird populations haven't seen viruses like this before," Webby said, "so in terms of their immune response, they're all immunologically naïve to this" virus. "Right now, it's like a kid in a candy store racing around," infecting bird populations, he added. (Chappell, NPR, 12/2)
- District of Columbia: The national mental health emergency hotline was out of service for several hours on Thursday. During the outage, individuals trying to reach the 988 hotline for assistance with mental health crises heard a message that said the line was "experiencing a service outage." However, people were still able to contact one of the hotline's mental health counselors by texting "988" or opening a chat at 988lifeline.org. Intrado, the telecommunications provider for the service, released a statement saying it was "experiencing an incident that is impacting production across numerous systems" and was "working diligently to restore service." Meanwhile, HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim on Thursday said the agency was communicating with the contractor. "We've taken immediate action to ensure alternative 988 channels are available to the public," Lovenheim wrote in a tweet. (AP/"Transformation Hub," Modern Healthcare, 12/1)
- New Jersey: FDA on Wednesday approved Ferring Pharmaceuticals' fecal transplant-based therapy, called Rebyota, to target Clostridium difficile—a superbug that leads to infections that can cause potentially life-threatening diarrhea. The therapy is the first of its kind to receive approval in the United States. While Rebyota is the first FDA-approved therapy for recurrent infections, fecal microbiota transplants have been the standard of care in the United States for many years. "As the first FDA-approved fecal microbiota product, [the] action represents an important milestone, as it provides an additional approved option to prevent recurrent CDI," said Peter Marks, director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. (Leo, Reuters, 11/30)