NEWS SCAN: Avian flu happenings, PCA plant fined, E coli outbreak mystery, NY pistachio plant cleared

Apr 10, 2009

No low-path spread in Kentucky poultry
Veterinary officials in Kentucky said yesterday that initial tests of poultry within a 2-mile radius of a commercial farm where birds showed exposure to the low-pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza were negative for the virus. Further tests are pending, and authorities said they will expand testing to a 10-km (6.2-mile) radius. Local and state health officials are following up on potential human exposure to the virus.

Expert: Egypt's H5N1 spike points to policy gaps
The recent spike in H5N1 avian influenza illnesses in Egypt, particularly among children, is a sign of gaps in disease prevention policies and efforts, a virology expert in Egypt said yesterday. Diaa Salman told Daily News Egypt that the country should consider upgrading its laboratory capabilities, reassess components of the poultry vaccine policy, and foster inter-departmental collaboration on monitoring wild birds and virus changes. He added that the health ministry and local authorities need to do more to ensure that farmers in rural areas are applying biosecurity measures to their backyard flocks.

Researchers find low-path exposure in US turkey workers
A serologic investigation of turkey farm workers found that they were exposed to a several low-pathogenic avian influenza subtypes, according to a study in the Apr 8 early online edition of Zoonoses and Public Health. They looked for serologic evidence of exposure to eight avian influenza subtypes in 95 adults with occupational exposure to turkeys. They found that the workers had been exposed to five of the subtypes (H4, H5, H6, H9, and H10) and had antibody titers that were 3.9 to 15.3 times higher than those without occupational exposure. The authors said the findings suggest agriculture workers should be included in pandemic influenza priority groups and that more surveillance should be done at both commercial and small-scale poultry farms.
[Apr 8 Zoonoses and Public Health abstract]

Texas fines PCA plant $14 million
The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) assessed the Peanut Corporation of America's (PCA) Plainview plant—implicated in a nationwide Salmonella outbreak—$14.6 million in administrative penalties for allegedly violating state food safety regulations. The charges include unsanitary conditions, product contamination, illnesses from peanuts processed at the plant, and operating for nearly 4 years without a state food manufacturers license. The TDSHS said PCA can pay the penalty, ask for an informal conference to discuss the allegations and penalty, or request a formal administrative hearing.
[Apr 9 TDSHS press release]

No source found on E coli O111 outbreak
In a final report on the nation's largest Escherichia coli O111 outbreak, linked in August 2008 to a Locust Grove, Okla., restaurant, officials said they still don't know the food or environmental source of the pathogen, though the investigation revealed that it was a point-source outbreak. Investigators weren't able to determine the mode of the outbreak, though they said evidence suggests ongoing E coli O111 transmission to restaurant patrons between Aug 15 and Aug 24, 2008. The outbreak was linked to 341 cases, 70 hospitalizations, and 1 death.

Tests show no Salmonella in NY pistachio plant
The New York State Department of Agriculture (NYSDA) announced today that food and environmental samples from a Setton Farms facility in Commack, N.Y., were negative for Salmonella. Kraft Foods previously found four Salmonella strains in Setton Farms pistachios used in certain brands of trail mix, and the findings have sparked a national recall of many products that contain pistachios. No illnesses have yet to be officially linked to the contaminated pistachios.
[Apr 10 NYSDA press release]

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