ICEID NEWS SCAN: School closures, pneumonia and flu deaths, raw milk demand, sprout outbreaks

Jul 14, 2010 – ATLANTA

Early H1N1 pandemic school closure was beneficial
A short school closure can slow the spread of respiratory infections in the community, especially among children, federal and Texas health officials reported today at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases (ICEID). The investigators had the chance to observe school closure effects in May 2009, just after the pandemic H1N1 virus emerged, when Fort Worth schools closed for 8 days but neighboring schools in Irving did not. Researchers looked for differences in respiratory disease rates in the two communities before, during, and after the closure. They conducted household surveys among parents in both school districts and compared rates of emergency department visits for flu-like illnesses in Fort Worth with the rest of the region. They found that the odds of having an acute respiratory infection decreased by 50% in Fort Worth but increased by 64% where schools didn't close. Early in the pandemic the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended school closures based on the identification of the first novel H1N1 case in a school, but after the virus became widespread in the community the agency revised its policy to recommend more limited closures based on individual community judgment.
Jul 14 ICEID abstracts (See Board 320)

NYC finds nothing unusual in increased pneumonia and flu deaths after H1N1 peak
In January 2010, New York City health officials became concerned when they noted a spike in pneumonia and influenza deaths as pandemic H1N1 activity was decreasing, a pattern that was also noted in national data. They launched an epidemiological investigation into the deaths to determine if anything unusual was occurring but didn't find anything remarkable in patterns of clinical diagnosis. They presented their findings today at ICEID in Atlanta. Of 83 patients investigated, 83% had blood cultures done, which revealed no predominant pathogens. Researchers found that 27% had bacterial pneumonia, 29% other pneumonia, 4% influenza, and 40% other causes. They emphasized that it's important to rapidly investigate increases in pneumonia and influenza mortality to identify possible new outbreaks. The CDC has said that increased death rates from pneumonia and influenza can lag behind increases in flu activity.
Jul 14 ICEID abstracts (See Board 284)

Demand for raw milk growing
A review of raw milk consumption, knowledge, and regulations reveals that interest in locally produced food and a belief that raw milk is healthier than its pasteurized counterpart are among factors increasing demand, according to an assessment presented today at ICEID. The review by a US Department of Agriculture researcher said that access to the product is also increasing. More farmers offer raw milk, and 34 states allow its sale. To assess the market and attitudes about raw milk, as well as regulatory issues and safety knowledge, the scientist reviewed the medical literature, a host of Web sites, and media reports and interviewed dairy farmers. Surveys have found that 25% to 50% of dairy producers were not aware that raw milk can contain pathogens, but most were conducted on farms that produce milk intended for pasteurization. The review concluded that veterinarians could play a role in educating raw-milk producers about the risk of contamination and prevention and suggested that model grading regulation for raw milk could help standardize quality and safety. So far this year there have been about 15 raw-milk outbreaks across the United States, according to previous reports.
Jul 14 ICEID abstracts (See Board 274)

Sprouts-related outbreaks tend to affect more people, states
Sprouts-related illness outbreaks are larger and more dispersed than those involving other foods, according to CDC researchers who presented their findings today at ICEID. Sprouts played a role in 33 outbreaks from 1998 to 2008, and were linked to 880 illnesses, 67 hospitalizations, and 1 death. The median number of illnesses in the outbreaks was 21, more than three times the average of 6 illnesses identified in outbreaks linked to other foods. Of 30 outbreaks with a single contamination source, Salmonella was most common (21 outbreaks, 721 illnesses), followed by Escherichia coli O157:H7 (7 outbreaks, 76 illnesses). On average, sprouts-related outbreaks are most dispersed—27% occurred in more than one state, compared with 2.4% in outbreaks involving other foods. The researchers concluded that the sprout outbreak patterns likely reflect the role of contaminated seed in many outbreaks.
Jul 14 ICEID abstracts (See Board 314)

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