NEWS SCAN: New H5N1 cases, EU nixes pan-flu vaccine, symptoms a-Twitter, hospital infections, TB

March 19, 2009

H5N1 fells boy in Vietnam, strikes woman in Egypt
A 3-year-old Vietnamese boy died today of H5N1 avian influenza, according to health officials. The boy fell ill Mar 10 after eating a duck that his family had slaughtered at their home in Dong Thap province, about 120 miles west of Ho Chi Minh City, according to an Associated Press (AP) story today. Elsewhere, Egyptian officials confirmed H5N1 yesterday in a 38-year-old woman hospitalized in Asyut governorate. She experienced fever and headache Mar 14, was hospitalized that day and reported contact with sick and dead poultry, according to a report from Egypt-based Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR). If both cases are confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), they would bring the official WHO worldwide H5N1 case count to 413 cases and 257 deaths.

EU regulators reject Sanofi experimental pandemic flu vaccine
The European Medicines Agency said today that it will not approve an experimental H5N1 pandemic vaccine from Sanofi-Aventis, according to Reuters. The agency expressed concern that the vaccine, Emerflu, could not trigger a sufficient immune response.
[Mar 19 Reuters article]

All a-Twitter about disease tracking?
The social-media network Twitter has announced SickCity, a tool that tracks "tweets" (short communications on Twitter) about sore throats and other symptoms of illness from around the globe. The tool, according to a story from CNET News, allows users to track data by city and by ailment to help determine where a disease might be peaking. SickCity plans to add Facebook input as well.

GAO: Fine-tuning of efforts needed to curtail hospital-bred infections
In a follow-up to a similar report a year ago, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a report encouraging continued leadership from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). After GAO released its report on HAIs in 2008, HHS established a high-level steering committee to address the topic, then issued the "HHS Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections." In today's 17-page report, the GAO applauds the HHS for its steps and encourages the agency to identify priorities and improve data collection.
[Mar 19 GAO report]
[Highlights of GAO report]

Patient-sharing may increase risk of disease spread
Hospitals share large numbers of patients with other acute care facilities without knowing it, according to a study released today at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA). Researchers found that only one in nine shared patients is directly transferred from one hospital to another, and that 22% of patients discharged from acute care centers are admitted elsewhere within a year, according to a SHEA press release. These findings have important implications for disease spread, the authors say, especially for diseases that have a substantial incubation period or prolonged period when someone not having symptoms may infect others, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
[Mar 19 SHEA press release]

US TB cases reach all-time low
The number of cases of tuberculosis (TB) in the United States continues to decline and reached an all-time low in 2008, according to a study in tomorrow's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). After a surge of TB from 1985 to 1992, the annual TB rate has steadily decreased. To hasten the decline of TB in the United States, an editorial published with the study recommends intensifying efforts to address the disproportionately high rates of TB that persist among foreign-born people and racial or ethnic minorities.
[Mar 20 MMWR study]

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