NEWS SCAN: Statins for flu, contaminated chicken, H5N1 death in Vietnam

Dec 1, 2009

Study casts doubt on statins as defense against severe flu
Statin drugs have been suggested as a tool to prevent severe flu illness, but a large population-based study in Ontario found that the drugs seem to provide only minimal protection against hospitalization and death from seasonal flu. In the 10-year retrospective study, published by the online journal PLoS One, more than 1.1 million patients who received flu vaccine and statins were identified and matched with an equal number of vaccinated controls who were not on statins. Statin use was linked with small but significant reductions in pneumonia hospitalization, 30-day pneumonia mortality, and all-cause mortality. But adjustment for possible confounding variables such as age, sex, and risk factors for flu complications reduced the apparent effect, and the authors said the remaining effect could easily be explained by hidden confounders. The authors say their findings cast doubt on the role of statins in combating a flu pandemic.
PLoS One report

Consumer Reports survey finds pathogens on 66% of chicken samples
In a study by Consumer Reports, 66% of chicken samples from retail outlets nationwide were contaminated with either Campylobacter or Salmonella, the magazine said in an online article. It said an outside lab tested 382 chickens bought last spring from supermarkets, gourmet and natural food stores, and mass merchandisers in 22 states. Campylobacter was found in 62% of the chickens, Salmonella in 14%, and both pathogens in 9%; 34% of the samples were free of both. The magazine said the numbers mark an improvement from a study in 2007, when 80% of samples were contaminated, but are still far too high. The analysis also found that 68% of the Salmonella and 60% of the Campylobacter isolates tested showed resistance to one or more antibiotics. In response to the report, the National Chicken Council, an industry group, said a more comprehensive survey by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed a lower contamination rate. "Chicken is safe. Like all fresh foods, raw chicken may have some microorganisms present, but these are destroyed by the heat of normal cooking," the council said.
Consumer Reports article on contaminated chicken
Nov 30 National Chicken Council statement

Vietnam has first H5N1 case in 6 months
A 23-year-old man in northern Vietnam has died of H5N1 avian influenza, marking the country's first case in 6 months, the newspaper Thanh Nien News reported today. The man, who lived in Dien Bien Phu, had duck blood pudding a week before he fell ill on Nov 18. He was admitted to a hospital Nov 26 and died 2 days later, the newspaper said. Testing by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology showed he had the H5N1 virus. The Vietnamese health ministry said five people in that country have died of H5N1 infections this year, bringing the cumulative death toll to 57, according to the story.

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