NEWS SCAN: Ag defense site, Salmonella outbreak over, cholera update, H1N1 in UK

Dec 13, 2010

OIG report says site for ag defense facility was picked fairly
The process used to choose the Manhattan, Kan., site for the planned National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) was fair and unbiased, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says in a newly released report. The Kansas site was picked in January 2009 from a list of 29 candidates. The DHS OIG reviewed the selection process after members of Congress expressed concern about possible bias. "DHS carried out the site selection process fairly, and we did not identify any evidence of bias," the report states. "It adhered to requirements contained in congressional appropriations and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. . . . Federal subject matter experts established sound evaluation criteria that resulted in comprehensive assessments of all prospective sites." The report says meetings between elected officials and the DHS under secretary for science and technology created a perception that some sites gained an unfair advantage, but the OIG "could not substantiate that these meetings affected the site selection process." The OIG also found that the appointment of a member of the consortium backing the Kansas site to the DHS Science and Technology Advisory Committee did not influence the site selection. DHS plans to start construction of the NBAF in 2011 and complete it by 2016.

CDC says egg-linked Salmonella outbreak is over after 1,939 cases
A nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to two Iowa egg farms has probably ended after reaching an estimated total of 1,939 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said recently. The previous update on Oct 19 put the estimated cases at 1,813. The cases occurred between May 1 and Nov 30, the CDC said in a Dec 2 statement. "As human Salmonella Enteritidis infections have now returned to baseline levels, it is likely that this outbreak has ended," the agency said. The outbreak led the two producers, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, to recall more than 500 million eggs. The Food and Drug Administration cleared Hillandale Farms to resume selling eggs to consumers on Oct 19 and authorized Wright County Egg to do the same on Nov 30.
Dec 2 CDC update

Haiti upheaval slows cholera response
Political instability and protests surrounding Haiti's national election are still hampering cholera response, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in its latest update. Medicine and supply shipments to North and South departments were delayed 2 to 3 days. In Cap Haitien, located in North department, United Nations (UN) staff are restricted to their hotels. An increase in cases and deaths has been reported in the department, but exact numbers have been difficult to obtain because of security problems. Civil unrest has delayed response planning meetings and in some instances has confined PAHO and UN staff to their living quarters. However, personnel located within the departments have been able to rapidly assess several new hot spots and deploy personnel and supplies to them. Once the security situation stabilizes in Port-au-Prince, Medicines du Monde, a health volunteer group from Canada, will open 17 new oral rehydration centers in neighborhoods. Cuban volunteers have helped distribute supplies in Artibonite department, where UN personnel movements are restricted. As of Dec 6, Haiti's health ministry reported 97,595 cholera hospital visits and 2,193 deaths. Elsewhere, the Dominican Republic's health ministry has received reports of 32 cholera cases, according to a report today from Dominican Today, an English language news source in Santo Domingo. The four latest case-patients, a 13 year old, a 63-year-old woman, and two men, aged 19 and 49, are reported to be in good health and receiving medical treatment.
Dec 11 PAHO bulletin
Dec 13 Dominican Today story

UK sees rise in 2009 H1N1 activity
A recent increase in 2009 H1N1 and influenza B circulation in the United Kingdom has triggered a public health warning for pregnant women and other groups at high risk for flu complications to be immunized. In a statement today from the UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA), Dr John Watson, an HPA flu expert, said alongside the uptick in flu cases over the last few weeks the agency has received reports of hospitalized patients and school outbreaks. According to a Dec 11 Reuters report, the HPA has received reports of 10 flu deaths. In other UK flu developments, the HPA said the Department of Health has issued new guidance saying that antivirals should be prescribed, ideally within 48 hours, when people with underlying medical conditions, including pregnancy, have flu infections. The guidance applies when evidence suggests that flu is circulating in the community. It notes that in some instances antivirals are appropriate for preventing flu, but stipulates that prophylactic use in healthy people under age 65 is not recommended.
Dec 13 HPA statement

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