NEWS SCAN: Lab site choice attacked, nurses oppose mandatory flu shots, conflict over flu database

GAO criticizes choice of Kansas for animal disease lab, report says
A draft report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used a flawed analysis in deciding to locate a special animal disease laboratory in Manhattan, Kan., the Washington Post reported today. The GAO said DHS greatly underestimated the risk of an accidental release of dangerous pathogens from the lab, as the site is in a tornado-prone area. The lab, called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, will replace the Department of Agriculture's Plum Island Animal Disease Center, located on an island near Long Island, N.Y. A US House subcommittee plans to hold a hearing on the site selection on Jul 30, the story said. The GAO critique reignited accusations that the site choice was driven by politics.
[Jul 27 Washington Post story]

New York nurses object to mandatory flu vaccination
Nurses in New York recently voiced strong opposition to a potential requirement that healthcare workers in the state receive influenza vaccine, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said in a Jul 23 statement. They made their objections at a meeting that day of the New York State Hospital Planning and Review Council. Despite the objections, the council adopted an emergency rule that could take effect before the upcoming flu season. Eileen Avery, RN, of the nursing group's education, practice, and research program, said in testimony that though the association encourages nurses to receive the vaccine, it doesn't agree that an immunization requirement should be a condition of employment. The nurses' group said that because the vaccine isn't always effective, there is no guarantee that mandatory immunization of healthcare workers will protect the public. It also said it was concerned that facilities might rely on flu shots, rather than proven infection control procedures, to prevent the spread of flu.

Legal conflict erupts over flu database
Declan Butler, a writer for Nature, revealed on his blog today that a rift has developed between the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) over contractual and legal issues related to the widely utilized EpiFlu database, which launched in May 2008 on GISAID's Web platform. SIB developed programming for the database, according to a previous CIDRAP News story, and Butler reported that SIB entered an agreement with GISAID in December 2006. Butler wrote that visitors attempting to access the EpiFlu database on the GISAID site are now met with a message from SIB saying it is no longer available through GISAID but can be accessed directly by registered members through SIB. GISAID's site said the database was unavailable for technical reasons and that it was working to resolve the issues as quickly as possible. Representatives from SIB declined to respond to Butler's queries. GISAID sources also declined comment but objected to SIB's move to block access to the database through GISAID, Butler reported. GISAID is a nonprofit organization that arose from international researchers' desire for a more open way to share H5N1 and other influenza virus sequences. It has won support from several members of the scientific community for offering what they say is a more complete collection of flu virus data, particularly during the novel H1H1 outbreak.
[Jun 25 CIDRAP News story "Pandemic reveals strengths of new flu database"]

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