Dec 28, 2010
Global swine flu surveillance seen as seriously inadequate
An article published yesterday in Scientific American explores what experts see as the vastly inadequate global efforts to monitor influenza viruses in swine, in the wake of a pandemic caused by a swine flu virus that jumped to humans. Reporter Helen Branswell writes that most pork-producing countries don't test their swine herds for flu at all. In the United States, pork producers generally test their animals, but they don't usually share the results with public health officials, since they know that any news about swine flu scares people away from eating pork. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently worked with the US Department of Agriculture to launch a program to share animal testing results with the public health sector, Branswell reports. But the program has limitations, in that swine flu surveillance data are stripped of identifying information, so health officials know what state a sample came from but not what county or farm. And when a human case of swine flu occurs, the herd suspected as the source can be tested only with the owner's permission. Flu experts are planning a February meeting in Italy to try to find ways to overcome the barriers to better surveillance, the article says.
Dec 27 Scientific American article
Salmonella probe points to Illinois farm as source of sprouts
Preliminary findings in an investigation of the 15-state Salmonella outbreak linked to Jimmy John's restaurants point to Tiny Greens Organic Farm of Urbana, Ill., as the source of contaminated sprouts, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday. The FDA said consumers should not eat alfalfa sprouts and "Spicy Sprouts" (which contain alfalfa, radish, and clover sprouts) from Tiny Greens. The products were distributed in 4- and 5-ounce containers to farmers' markets, restaurants, and grocery stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and possibly other Midwestern states. In a Dec 23 report on the outbreak investigation, the CDC said 89 patients with a matching strain of Salmonella serotype I 4,,12:i:-were reported by 15 states and Washington, DC, between Nov 1 and Dec 21, including 50 cases in Illinois. Among patients with available information, 23% reported being hospitalized, but there were no deaths, the CDC said. In other developments, J&D Produce of Edinburg, Tex., yesterday announced the "precautionary" recall of curly parsley and cilantro after samples tested positive in Quebec and Detroit. The recall applies only to products packed on Nov 30 and Dec 6, and no illnesses have been reported, the company said in a statement. The products were packed in red, white, and blue waxed cartons and sold under the Little Bear brand at retail outlets and wholesale terminal markets. A CNN report said the recall involved close to 7,000 cases of the products, which were distributed in several US states as well as Quebec and Ontario.
Dec 27 FDA press release
Dec 23 CDC report on outbreak investigation
Dec 28 CNN story on Texas firm's recall
Haiti's cholera cases approach 130,000
Cholera continues to engulf Haiti, with nearly 130,000 cases and 2,707 deaths reported so far, the Jamaica Observer reported today. Even with ongoing international efforts to contain the epidemic, an estimated 40 people are dying each day, the Haitian health ministry said. Worst hit is the Artibonite province in central Haiti, but infection has spread all over the country. Adding to the strife currently are attacks on voodoo priests in the southwestern part of the country by mobs claiming that they are responsible for the outbreak; more than 40 priests have been killed.
Dec 28 Jamaica Observer article
Flu vaccination policy in UK debated
The UK Department of Health is coming under fire for not offering free flu shots to healthy children under 5 years of age this flu season. The shots are being recommended only for high-risk groups this season, including pregnant women and the elderly but not young children. The current vaccination policy follows the recommendations of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. During last season's H1N1 pandemic, all age-groups were urged to obtain vaccination. Some critics claim that preschoolers were left off the shot roster this season to save money, but the health department claims the decision was made because of age and risk considerations. No vaccination campaign has been directed at the general public this year; only high-risk people have been contacted to get the vaccine. Public schools in the United Kingdom reopen next week after the holiday recess, and concern is mounting that flu, which is currently seeing a surge there, will reach epidemic proportions.
Dec 28 BBC article
Dec 28 The Guardian article
Dec 28 The Telegraph article
Egyptian girl dies of H5N1; Japan, Korea cite bird deaths
A Dec 25 death in Egypt from H5N1 avian flu brings the number of deaths from the disease there to 11 this year and 38 since the outbreak began in 2006. The latest victim was an 11-year-old girl in the Luxor governorate who had been reported as hospitalized last week. Meanwhile, reports of H5N1 deaths in birds have come in from Japan and South Korea. Three cranes were found dead in the Izumi Plains of Kogoshima prefecture Dec 21 and subsequently tested positive for H5N1, according to a Kyodo News International article, bringing the recent total to five. In South Korea, the farm ministry reported today that 20 spectacled teal ducks had been found dead south of Seoul, apparently from H5N1. This is the third such report from the area this month.
Dec 25 Kuwait News article on Egyptian death
Dec 27 Kyodo News article on Japanese cranes
Dec 28 Yonhap News article on South Korea