NEWS SCAN: Canada's antiviral mix, H5N1 in Tibet, flu vaccine in military, new biodefense center, Toronto foodborne disease, Florida horse deaths

Apr 20, 2009

Canada set to shuffle antiviral stockpile
Canada will adjust the combination of antiviral medications in its national emergency stockpile because of concern about ostelamivir (Tamiflu) resistance among influenza viruses, the Canadian Press (CP) reported today. The Public Health Agency of Canada said it will boost its supply of zanamivir (Relenza), along with older antiviral medications such as amantadine and rimantadine. Canada's emergency stockpile, a backup to the country's national antiviral stockpile, currently contains 14 million doses, enough to treat 1.4 million people. Arlene King, a federal pandemic planning official, told the CP that discussions are under way with provincial and local officials to also adjust the mix of medications in the national antiviral stockpile, which holds most of the country's pandemic flu drugs—55.7 million doses, enough to treat about 5.6 million people.
[Apr 20 CP story]

H5N1 hits Tibetan poultry farm
Agriculture officials in China reported yesterday that the H5N1 avian influenza virus struck a farm near Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The report said the birds were chickens from a live bird market. The outbreak killed 1,500 of the farm's 3,179 poultry, and the remaining birds were culled to prevent the spread of the disease. Tibet's last outbreak was reported in April 2008, according to previous reports.
[Apr 10 OIE report]

Study: Intranasal flu vaccine topped injected vaccine in military recruits
In a study involving thousands of US military personnel, the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV, or FluMist) provided better protection in new recruits than a conventional trivalent injected vaccine (TIV) did, according to a new report published by Vaccine. In 2005-06 and 2006-07, rates of influenza-like illness (ILI) were 22% to 51% and 18% to 47% lower in the LAIV group than in the TIV group. Seasoned service personnel, however, had slightly but significantly greater protection with TIV than with LAIV, according to the report by military medical researchers. They also found that ILI rates were much higher in the recruits than in seasoned soldiers.

NIAID grant supports new biodefense center
Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and the University of Washington recently announced that they have received a 5-year, $40.7 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to establish a regional biodefense and emerging infectious disease center, according to an Apr 15 press release from OHSU. The Pacific Northwest Regional Center for Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases is based at OHSU and involves several other partner institutions. Researchers will investigate a broad range of diseases and pathogens, including Ebola, SARS, avian and 1918 influenza, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. The center's research will focus on two main areas in its search for new therapeutic targets: defects in the aging immune system and the identification of disease-host interactions through genomics and genetic analyses.

Foodborne disease cases in Toronto estimated at 437,000 per year
A new report from Toronto Public Health (TPH) estimates the city's burden of foodborne disease at 437,093 cases per year, or about one case for every six residents. The cost of foodborne illness in the city is estimated at $476 million to $587 million a year. Outbreak-associated disease cases are highest in the winter, whereas sporadic cases are most common in the summer and early fall, the report says. It says sporadic cases have declined in the past 5 years, following the introduction of TPH's DineSafe program. TPH posts restaurant inspection results online and on signs in restaurant windows.
[TPH report]

Initial probe finds no infectious disease in horses' deaths
In an investigation into the deaths of 21 horses at the site of a Wellington, Fla., polo match, no evidence has been found so far to suggest an infectious disease cause, Charles Bronson, Florida's Agriculture and Consumer Services (FACS) commissioner, said today in a press release. The horses were on a Venezuelan team that was scheduled to play yesterday. They didn't show any signs of illness in the morning, but after they were transported to the polo stadium, some animals were found dead and others had severe illness signs, including depression, breathing difficulties, and problems moving and standing, according to the release. Fourteen horses died by yesterday evening and the other seven died overnight. No other horses appear to have symptoms. State officials said the rapid onset of sickness and death suggests an adverse drug reaction or toxicity. Authorities are conducting necropsies and toxicology tests, but results may not be known for several days.

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