NEWS SCAN: Food safety in restaurants, pneumococcal vaccine, polio immunization, H5N1 in China

Jun 8, 2010

Study finds food-safety errors common in restaurants
A study involving video surveillance of food service workers showed that food safety errors were more frequent than expected but also that education efforts reduced them. In the study, published in the Journal of Food Protection, video cameras were used to observe 47 food handlers in eight food service operations, and food safety "infosheets" were provided weekly to workers for 7 weeks. The investigators found that the average kitchen worker committed about one food cross-contamination error per hour and that mistakes were more frequent during busier times, according to a North Carolina State University news release. "We found a lot more risky practices than we expected," first author Benjamin J. Chapman commented in the release. But the researchers also found that use of the infosheets led to a significant 19.6% reduction in indirect cross-contamination errors and a significant 6.7% increase in handwashing.
Jun 8 NCSU news release
Jun Journal of Food Protection abstract

Study: Pneumococcal vaccine doesn't prevent repeat infections
A Canadian study suggests that, for elderly people who have been hospitalized for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) is ineffective in preventing repeat bouts of pneumonia. Canadian national guidelines recommend the vaccine for all elderly people and others at increased risk for CAP. The study, published in the Jul 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, focused on 2,950 patients, most of them elderly, who were hospitalized in Edmonton for CAP. A third of the patients had received PPV previously or were vaccinated before they were discharged. The patients were followed for 3.8 years, during which 1,626 (55%) died or were hospitalized again for potentially vaccine-preventable infections. After adjusting for confounding variables, the researchers found that the risk of death or reinfection was not significantly lower for the vaccinated patients than for those who were not vaccinated (hazard ratio, 0.91; 95% confidence interval, 0.79 to 1.04; P=.17). "Better pneumococcal vaccination strategies are urgently needed," the authors conclude.
Clinical Infectious Diseases abstract

Polio vaccination efforts target Afghan kids
As part of a response to a polio outbreak in Tajikistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently vaccinated more than 1.2 million children in neighboring Afghanistan against polio, the United Nations (UN) said yesterday in a press release. As of Jun 5, the WHO had received 200 reports of polio cases in Tajikistan, most of them near the Afghan border. Officials are hoping to prevent infections in Afghanistan's Badakhshan region, which has been free of polio for the past decade, the UN said. To help reach as many children in Afghanistan as possible, the WHO set up immunization posts at border crossings between the two countries, conducted house-to-house visits, offered mobile clinics, and installed teams at area hospitals.
Jun 7 United Nations press release

WHO confirms fatal Chinese H5N1 case
The WHO today confirmed the illness and death of a 22-year-old Chinese woman from H5N1 avian influenza. The country's health ministry had announced the case—China's first this year—on Jun 4. The woman, who was from Hubei province in central China, got sick in May 23 and died on Jun 3, the WHO said. Investigators found that she had been exposed to sick and dead poultry. Health authorities are monitoring her close contacts, and so far none have shown any symptoms. Today's WHO confirmation raises China's H5N1 case total to 39, of which 26 were fatal.
Jun 8 WHO statement

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