NEWS SCAN: Egg farm findings, dengue in France, vaccine-autism case, anthrax in Bangladesh, flu in India, mandatory flu shots

Sep 14, 2010

Congressional panel says egg firm had history of Salmonella findings
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee said today that it has obtained records showing that Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, found Salmonella in 426 environmental samples in the past 2 years, before the farm was linked to a nationwide surge in Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) infections. The committee released a letter addressed to Austin DeCoster, owner of the company, saying that the 426 positive samples included 73 "that were potentially positive for Salmonella Enteritidis, the same strain that has sickened 1,519 people." The committee did not say how or where it obtained the test results. The letter says the panel had asked the company on Aug 23 to provide information on any Salmonella findings but that a response on Sep 11 did not include information on the 73 potential SE findings. The letter asks DeCoster to come prepared to discuss the reasons for the findings and the company's response to them when the committee holds a hearing on the outbreak on Sep 21. An Associated Press story published this afternoon said a company official did not immediately response to a request for comment on the letter.
Sep 14 House Energy and Commerce Committee letter

First indigenous dengue case reported in France
A man in Nice recently had the first non-imported case of dengue fever reported in mainland France, according to news stories quoting the French health ministry. The ministry said the case was an isolated one and the man had fully recovered, according to The Connexion, an English-language newspaper in France. The story said about 800 dengue cases have been reported in France this year, but until now all were in travelers who caught the disease abroad. The case has prompted authorities to urge residents of the French Riviera to take precautions against mosquitoes. "The risk of an epidemic is deemed limited but cannot be excluded, because of the significant numbers of tiger mosquitoes [which can spread the disease] in the area," the health ministry said in a statement quoted in an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report yesterday. The news stories said the French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean have had dengue epidemics this year; AFP said Martinique has had 32,600 cases since February, with 13 deaths. Dengue is found in tropical and subtropical areas around the world and is endemic in more than 100 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Sep 14 Connexion report
Sep 13 AFP story

Court of Claims awards millions in vaccine-autism case
The US Court of Federal Claims has awarded millions of dollars in compensation to the family of an Athens, Ga., girl who as a toddler fell ill with an autism-like condition after she was vaccinated against nine diseases on the same day, according to CBS News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). The government settled her parents' claim in 2007, but it took more than 2 years for the sides to agree on the compensation. The family is receiving $1.5 million immediately to cover care in the first year after the settlement, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering. In addition, the family will get $140,000 to cover past expenses and an annuity contract worth at least $500,000 a year to care for and educate the girl, Hannah Poling, throughout her life, the AJC reported. Federal officials concluded in 2008 that the vaccines Poling received did not directly cause her autism symptoms, but rather aggravated a rare mitochondrial disorder, which in turn led to her condition, according to the news reports. "It's critical to remember that the federal government has never compensated, nor has it ever been ordered to compensate, any case based on a determination that autism was actually caused by vaccines," Martin Kramer, a spokesman for the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), told the AJC. HRSA administers the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The AJC noted that more than 5,000 families have filed complaints of vaccine-related autism with the program since 1999, and of about 700 claims adjudicated so far, all but the Poling claim have been turned down. Numerous studies have failed to find a link between vaccines and autism.

Anthrax cases top 500 in Bangladesh
Officials in Bangladesh said more than 500 people have been sickened with the cutaneous form of anthrax across the country's dairy region, AFP reported today. That represents an increase of about 100 cases from the number reported a week ago. However, Mahmudur Rahman, Bangladesh's health ministry director, said the rate of new infections was slowing down, presumably because a vaccination program for cattle is having an effect. So far no human deaths have been reported, though the disease has killed hundreds of cows. The disease can be transmitted to humans from handling diseased animals or eating contaminated meat.
Sep 14 AFP story

India reports more H1N1 cases and deaths
An update from India's health ministry says the country confirmed 1,011 new 2009 H1N1 infections, including 75 deaths, in the surveillance week ending Sep 12. The hardest hit areas for fatalities were Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh states. The WHO, in a Sep 10 update, said India was one of the countries still reporting active flu transmission, with a substantial number of flu fatalities still occurring in several states. Yesterday health officials in India's Bihar state reported their first death from the 2009 H1N1 virus, in a 45-year-old woman who had been hospitalized for a week before she died, the Times of India reported. Bihar is in northeastern India at the border with Nepal.
Indian health ministry flu update
Sep 13 Times of India story

AAP releases position on mandatory flu shots for health workers
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) yesterday released the full version its new position statement calling for mandatory influenza vaccination for healthcare personnel (HCP). The AAP, which announced the position in a brief online statement last week, joins the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) in endorsing a flu immunization requirement. "HCP fail to lead by example if they recommend universal immunization, including influenza, to their patients but do not require it of themselves," says the statement, published online by Pediatrics. But whereas the IDSA and SHEA call for exempting employees from the requirement for medical reasons only, the AAP allows for religious exemptions as well. "Medical and religious exemptions can be granted on an individual basis, so mandating influenza immunization for HCP is ethically justified," the statement says.
Sep 13 AAP statement
Aug 31 CIDRAP News story on SHEA position

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