NEWS SCAN: Prenatal pan flu exposure, H5N1 in Egypt, food recall expands, Boston biolab delay, malaria in US, MDR TB, Russian train quarantine

Apr 16, 2009

Prenatal pandemic flu exposure might have affected brain
Prenatal exposure to the Hong Kong pandemic influenza strain of 1968-69 may have impaired fetal cerebral development and lowered adult intelligence scores, according to Norwegian researchers who reported their findings in the early online Mar 18 edition of Annals of Neurology. In reviewing the records of more than 180,000 Norwegian men born between 1967 and 1973 who performed compulsory military service, they found that intelligence scores for each birth year rose annually, except for 1970. The investigators also found that the intelligence scores of men born in July through October of that year—6 to 9 months after Hong Kong flu struck Norway—were lower than those of men born in the same months in 1969 and 1971. The pattern suggests that exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy affected intelligence, the authors wrote. They said the effect could have been due to fetal cerebral infection or to the mother's immune response, high body temperature, or use of medications.
[Apr 15 Wiley-Blackwell press release]
[Mar 18 Ann Neurol abstract]

Egypt reports three fresh H5N1 outbreaks
Animal health officials in Egypt today reported that H5N1 avian influenza broke out in three governorates, according to Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR). An outbreak in Giza governorate, detected through active surveillance, struck 25 mixed variety backyard birds. Officials in Kafr el Sheikh governorate reported an outbreak in 70 backyard chickens, and authorities in Sharkia governorate reported that preslaughter testing at a commercial farm in Mafarik Khodeir village detected the virus in some of the facility's 3,500 chickens. The vaccination status of the birds wasn't available in any of the three outbreaks.

Salmonella-related food recall expanded to include oils, sauces
Union International Food Co., which recalled dry spices on Mar 30 because of possible Salmonella contamination, has expanded the recall to include various oils and sauces. In a notice posted on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site, the Union City, Calif., company said it is expanding its recall of Lian How and Uncle Chen brand products to include all sauces, oils, and oil blends. The products come in containers ranging from 6 ounces to 1 gallon and were distributed to retailers, wholesalers, and distributors in California, Oregon, and Washington state. The original recall was prompted by the finding of Salmonella in some Lian How white pepper in connection with an outbreak. The company said the sauces and oils have not been linked to the outbreak, but it decided to recall the products out of caution.

Safety review to delay opening of biodefense lab a year
The opening of the new $192 million National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Boston University will be delayed another year while the National Institutes of Health (NIH) completes its longer-than-projected safety review, the Boston Globe reported today. The complete but vacant building is slated to include a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory, meaning it can handle some of the world's most dangerous pathogens. The NIH told a district court judge yesterday, in a court proceeding in a lawsuit filed by neighbors seeking to block the lab, that it hoped to submit its safety analysis by the spring or summer of 2010.
[Apr 16 Boston Globe story]

US had 1,505 malaria cases in 2007
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today it received reports of 1,505 US cases of malaria in 2007, down slightly and nonsignificantly from the 1,564 cases reported in 2006. The highest estimated relative case rates were in civilians who traveled to West Africa. Among 701 case-patients who provided the information, 441 (62.9%) reported that they had not followed the preventive drug regimen recommended by the CDC for their travel destination. Plasmodium falciparum was the most common malaria species, identified in 43.4% of cases. There was one death, in a patient who had a P vivax infection.
[CDC malaria surveillance report]

Drug-resistant TB plagues former Soviet countries, parts of China
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) remains a serious threat in parts of China and in nine countries of the former Soviet Union, according to a report from the Global Project on Anti-Tuberculosis Drug Resistance Surveillance. In a study involving 90,736 patients in 83 countries, the median susceptibility to any drug in new cases of TB was 11.1%, according to the report in The Lancet. The prevalence of MDR TB (resistant to at least two first-line drugs) was 7% in two Chinese provinces and ranged from 6.8% to 22.3% in nine former Soviet countries, including 19.4% in Moldova and 22.3% in Baku, Azerbaijan. In addition, five former Soviet countries reported 25 or more cases of extensively drug-resistant TB. The study showed that MDR TB became less common in Hong Kong and the United States.
[Lancet report on MDR TB]

Train passenger's death in Russia triggers quarantine of other riders
More than 50 people were escorted off a train in central Russia and quarantined in a hospital yesterday after a Chinese woman on the train died of an unknown illness, according to multiple news reports. The woman, on a train bound for Moscow from far eastern Russia, died suddenly yesterday, according to a Reuters report today. Some reports yesterday suggested that she might have had SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), but World Health Organization spokeswoman Sari Setiogi said there was no confirmation of that, Reuters reported. An RIA Novosti report today quoted unidentified officials as saying the woman had an "acute respiratory viral infection" with "pulmonary and cerebral edema" and that blood samples were sent to Moscow for analysis. The story said 59 passengers were sent to a local hospital. The Chinese woman was accompanied by three family members, who all had slight fevers, the report said.
[Apr 16 RIA Novosti report]

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