NEWS SCAN: Avian flu in Texas, H5N1 in Romania, oyster contamination study, cruise ship outbreaks

Mar 16, 2010

Newspaper says Texas officials kept mum about avian flu detection
A flock of 3,500 ducks in Gonzales County, Tex., was destroyed earlier this year after an unidentified avian influenza virus was detected, but the situation was not made public until now, according to a report yesterday in the local newspaper, the Gonzales Inquirer. Andy Schwartz, epidemiologist with the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), said the virus was found in routine testing last November. Texas A&M University detected the virus and sent the samples to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for further testing. The national lab ruled out H5 and H7 viruses, which can be highly pathogenic, but the story did not state whether the Ames lab identified the subtype involved. Schwartz said no birds were sick. The state ordered the owner to stop sending the ducks to market, but he was reluctant to allow them to be destroyed until the Texas Poultry Federation offered to buy out the flock. A TVMDL official said the Gonzales area has the state's largest concentration of poultry, about 8 million birds.
Romania reports H5N1 outbreak
Veterinary officials in Romania today reported an H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in backyard poultry in Tulcea province, in the Danube delta, according to a report submitted to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak is the first detection of the H5N1 in Europe this year and is Romania's first outbreak of the virus since December 2007. The disease was first suspected on Mar 13 when two birds showed symptoms. The outbreak struck all 47 birds in the flock. Authorities suspect that the source of the infection was contact with wild birds. The location of the outbreak is on land that can be accessed only by boat.
Mar 16 OIE report

FDA survey finds regional differences in oyster contamination
A survey by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found regional differences in the levels of pathogenic Vibrio parahaemolyticus in oysters along the nation's coastline, says a study published yesterday by Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The FDA checked levels of that pathogen and several others in samples of market oysters collected twice a month in nine states during 2007. Levels of pathogenic V parahaemolyticus in the Gulf and Mid-Atlantic regions were about two logs greater than in the Pacific and North Atlantic regions. General levels of the two Vibrio species were about the same as in 1998-99. Pathogens usually associated with fecal pollution were found sporadically or not at all: toxigenic V cholerae, 0%; Salmonella, 1.5%; norovirus, 3.9%; and hepatitis A virus, 4.4%. The report says the data provide a baseline to determine the effectiveness of new control measures and to compare the success of the US shellfish sanitation system with that of systems in other countries.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology abstract

Third illness outbreak on cruise prompts call for more investigation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that the cruise ship Celebrity Mercury remain in port for at least 4 days after its current voyage to allow further investigation following the ship's third outbreak of gastrointestinal illness since mid February, CNN reported yesterday. Norovirus was identified as the source of the first two outbreaks, and CDC investigators were aboard the ship yesterday looking for the cause of the latest cases. The first outbreak sickened about 20% of the passengers and prompted a thorough cleaning and CDC preventive recommendations, but a second outbreak affected about 10% of passengers, the story said. The latest outbreak has affected 19% of the passengers and prompted Celebrity Cruises to cut the voyage short by a day. The ship will return to Charleston, S.C., Mar 18. The story said the latest outbreak is the ninth one reported to the CDC this year that affected more than 2% of the passengers on a cruise ship.
Mar 15 CNN report

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