NEWS SCAN: Avian flu, social media at HHS, Salmonella in sprouts, food safety legislation, hospital infections

Mar 4, 2009

OIE raises concerns about poultry vaccination
The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) today issued a statement warning that countries shouldn't depend on poultry vaccination as a long-term strategy to control the spread of the H5N1 virus, because it can mask the presence of the virus. Vaccine campaigns are warranted when countries lack the capacity to conduct surveillance and quickly respond to the outbreaks, but they should contain an "exit strategy" to return to classic disease-control measures. Some health officials have questioned the efficacy of China's vaccination program in light of several recent human cases combined with a lack of information about poultry outbreaks. Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry in Vietnam, another country that vaccinates poultry, announced the formation today of five working groups to address recent flare-ups of avian flu, according to Xinhua, China's state news agency.
[Mar 4 OIE statement]

Egypt detects H5N1 at 9 more sites
Egyptian animal health officials have linked the H5N1 virus to several fresh outbreaks, including seven backyard bird locations in Aswan, Suez, and Behera governorates, Egypt-based Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR) reported today. Outbreaks also struck a chicken farm in Helwan governorate and a turkey farm in Sharkiya governorate.

HHS organizes social media resources
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently launched an initiative that makes many of its online resources interactive, including having a presence on social-media networks such as Twitter and MySpace. Now the department has organized portals to resources for all its agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), onto a single Web page that includes links to blogs, widgets, podcasts, and RSS feeds.
[HHS social media site]

Nebraska officials suspect sprouts as Salmonella source
An epidemiologic investigation in Nebraska has tentatively linked alfalfa sprouts to a Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that has sickened at least 14 people so far, the state's health department said yesterday. The sprouts were produced by a local grower, Omaha-based CW Sprouts, which has recalled the products, and Nebraska laboratory authorities are conducting tests on the company's alfalfa seeds and sprouts. Aside from the 14 confirmed cases, officials have identified 4 probable cases and 8 to 10 possible cases. The Minnesota Public Health Laboratory is analyzing samples from the patients to confirm that the Salmonella samples shares the same genetic fingerprint.

Senators propose new food safety measures
A bipartisan group of eight US Senators yesterday introduced a bill to give the FDA more power to address food safety issues, according to a report today from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The legislation would increase inspections of food processors, require plants to have federally reviewed food-hazard prevention plans, expand access to internal laboratory testing results, allow the FDA to order mandatory recalls when companies don't act voluntarily, and set standards for fresh produce safety. Three major food companies—General Mills, Kraft, and Kellogg—are supporting the legislation, signaling a shift in their past resistance to increased food safety regulation, Bloomberg News reported today.

APIC offers tips for safe hospital visits
Visitors to healthcare facilities can help protect patients by observing simple safety tips, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) said today in advance of Patient Safety Awareness Week, Mar 8-14. To prevent infections, APIC recommends that visitors: sanitize their hands before and after visits; stay home if sick; check with healthcare staff before bringing food, flowers, or kids; observe special precautions before entering patient rooms; limit clutter in patient rooms; avoid visiting multiple patients; and follow discharge instructions once the patient returns home.
[Mar 4 APIC press release]

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