NEWS SCAN: Sprouts-linked Salmonella , contaminated flavor enhancer, infection risk for veterans, new plague test

Jun 30, 2010

Cases in sprouts-related Salmonella outbreak rise to 44
The case count in a Salmonella Newport outbreak linked to raw sprouts from a California company has reached 44 in 11 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday in its final update on the episode. No deaths have been reported, but 7 of 34 patients with available information were hospitalized, the CDC said. Illness onset dates ranged from Mar 1 to Jun 1. The outbreak led J. H. Caldwell and Sons Inc. of Maywood, Calif., to recall several brands of alfalfa sprouts on May 21. The previous CDC update, on Jun 3, listed 35 cases in 11 states. California has had the most cases with 19; no other state has had more than 6.
Jun 29 CDC Salmonella outbreak update

FDA wants clean-up report from maker of contaminated flavor enhancer
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked a Las Vegas, Nev., company to report on corrective actions it has taken since Salmonella Tennessee was found earlier this year in hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) made by the firm. After the contamination was found in February, Basic Food Flavors Inc. recalled all the HVP it had produced since September 2009. The FDA inspected the firm's processing facility in February and March, after a customer found Salmonella Tennessee in HVP from the company. The FDA's Jun 23 warning letter to the firm says inspectors found Salmonella in nine environmental samples, six of which contained Salmonella Tennessee that matched the strain in the HVP. In a Mar 12 letter to the FDA, the company pledged to take a number of corrective steps. The FDA is asking the firm to report within 15 days the actions it has taken since then. The HVP contamination prompted the recall of 177 products containing the ingredient, according to a Food Safety News report, but no illnesses were traced to the contamination.
Jun 23 FDA warning letter
Jun 30 Food Safety News report
Mar 4 FDA press release

Veterans warned of potential virus exposure at St. Louis facility
The US Department of Veterans Affairs is warning hundreds of veterans that they might have been exposed to viruses because dental equipment at a VA facility in St. Louis may not have been cleaned properly, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The agency is sending letters to 1,812 veterans who received dental treatment over a 13-month period that ended in March, the story says. The veterans are being told the risk of infection is low, but they are being offered free testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV infection. VA spokeswoman Laurie Tranter said the problem was discovered in March and led to a 2-week suspension of dental services. Another VA official said veterans were not notified right away because the agency needed time to figure out the level of risk. The letter to veterans expresses "deep regret" for the potential exposure and says the VA is doing its best to offer testing quickly. The story said the hospital has had previous problems with equipment sterilization, including a case last December that led to a 2-week shutdown of the supply processing department.
Jun 30 Post-Dispatch story

Army investigators report improved test for plague pathogen
US Army researchers have reported the development of a rapid and sensitive test for Yersinia pestis, the plague pathogen, that relies on phages (viruses that infect bacteria). The test employs quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) to monitor the amplification of two phages that are specific to Y pestis, says the report by investigators at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md. The use of two phages provides for optimal sensitivity and specificity, and the test detects only live Y pestis cells, yielding results in 4 hours. Existing PCR tests for the pathogen also can yield results in as little as 4 hours, but they require a preliminary step of DNA extraction, and they cannot distinguish between live and dead or dormant Y pestis cells, according to the report, published in PLoS One.
Jun 28 PLoS One report

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