NEWS SCAN: E coli outbreak, viable frozen flu viruses, progress on virus-sharing

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May 21, 2009

E coli cases in three states prompt ground beef recall
An outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections in three states has prompted an Illinois company to recall 95,898 pounds of ground beef because of possible contamination, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today. The products, produced Mar 10, were recalled by Valley Meats, Coal Valley, Ill., the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said. The products were distributed nationwide, carry the establishment number "EST. 5712," and were sold under the brand names 3S, Grillmaster, J & B, Klub, Thick 'N Savory, and Ultimate. The agency said the Ohio Department of Health reported a cluster of illnesses on May 13, and cases also have been found in Illinois and Pennsylvania. Kristopher Weiss, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, told CIDRAP News that Ohio has had three cases, all in the Cleveland area, involving matching E coli isolates and with illness onset dates of Apr 11, 12, and 14. Weiss said two of the patients were hospitalized, but all three recovered. The FSIS did not specify how many cases were identified in Pennsylvania and Illinois. [May 21 FSIS release]

Researchers say flu viruses frozen in lakes stay viable for decades
Influenza A viruses that have been frozen in lake and pond ice remain viable and potentially infectious when the ice thaws, a team from Bowling Green State University reported yesterday at the general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Philadelphia. Zeynep Kocer and Scott Rogers found that flu viruses from frozen lakes and ponds in the Arctic and in Ohio, along major flyways for migrating ducks, were still infectious under lab conditions, and could account for flu strains re-emerging after decades.

Chan sees progress toward a deal on virus sharing
Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said governments are making progress toward an agreement on the sharing of virus samples and vaccines and drugs derived from them, according to a Reuters report published today. In response to developing countries' concern about access to vaccines developed from their virus samples, governments have been negotiating on the issue since 2007. A meeting last week did not produce a final agreement, but at the WHO's annual meeting today, Chan won broad support for a proposal for her to "facilitate a process to finalize the remaining elements including the standard material transfer agreement" and then present a deal to the WHO's executive board next January, according to Reuters. Chan said the novel H1N1 flu epidemic has prompted an unprecedented commitment by affected countries to the sharing of information, genetic sequences, viruses, diagnostic kits, and lab equipment. [May 21 Reuters report]

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