NEWS SCAN: Avian flu outbreaks, pandemic funding, biodefense lab lapses, Listeria

Feb 9, 2009

Vietnam and Egypt report H5N1 poultry outbreaks
Vietnam today confirmed H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in another province, Hau Giang in the Mekong Delta, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported. The outbreak involved about 400 unvaccinated ducks and brings the number of provinces recently reporting the virus to five. Meanwhile, Egyptian veterinary officials reported that the virus struck more locations, according to a Feb 5 report posted on the Web site of Egypt-based Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR), including Behera, Helwan, and Fayoum governorates. In addition, laboratory officials are testing samples from a Sharkiya governorate location where several suspicious bird deaths were reported.
[Feb 9 DPA story]

Hong Kong finds H5N1 in more dead birds
More dead birds found around Hong Kong have tested positive for the H5N1 virus, according to a Feb 7 statement from Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD). They include a grey heron from Mai Po Nature Reserve, a peregrine falcon found near Long Beach Gardens, a chicken found on Butterfly Beach, and three chickens and a duck collected on Lantau Island.
[Feb 7 AFCD press release]

Senate negotiators strip pandemic funding from stimulus bill
Bipartisan work on the Senate's version of the economic stimulus bill on Feb 6 cut $870 million in pandemic planning provisions from the list of spending proposals, according to a report yesterday from Congressional Quarterly (CQ) Today. Critics questioned whether or not increasing the nation's pandemic vaccine stockpile would crease more jobs. The House stimulus bill allocates $900 for pandemic flu funding. After the Senate passes its version, a conference will meet to resolve differences between the two bills.

Security lapses reportedly sideline select agent work at Army's biodefense lab
Federal officials suspended work on biological select agents at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Md., on Feb 6 after identifying problems with the system the lab uses to monitor its inventories of high-risk biological materials, Wired reported today. The lab housed the work of the late Bruce E. Ivins, whom federal officials believe played a role in the 2001 anthrax attacks. The Wired report is based on an internal memo obtained by ScienceInsider blog.
[Feb 9 Wired story]

Listeria concerns prompt recalls
Two companies recently issued recall notices because of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination, though no illnesses were reported. Alaska Sausage Company recalled 872 pounds of sausage links with reindeer meat and bratwurst, according to a Feb 6 press release from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meanwhile, agriculture officials in New York warned consumers not to eat 14-oz packages of Queso Fresco made by Peregrina Cheese Corp, based in Brooklyn, NY, according to a Feb 4 press release from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company is holding most of the cheese, but a small quantity was released for retail sale.
[Feb 6 USDA press release]
[Feb 4 FDA press release]

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