NEWS SCAN: US flu activity down, mandatory flu shots OK'd, avian flu in South Korea, polio in DR-Congo

Dec 10, 2010

CDC: Flu activity slows in southeastern hot spot
Flu activity in southeastern US states, a region that recently reported increases, declined last week, falling back below seasonal baseline levels, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its weekly surveillance update. Such rises and falls aren't unusual, and flu activity typically peaks in January or later, it said. Activity is low across the rest of the nation, with Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia reporting regional activity. Other flu indicators also pointed to low activity. The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza stayed about the same as the previous week, at 10.8%. Doctor's visits for flu-like illnesses were below the national baseline, and deaths from flu and pneumonia were below the epidemic threshold. Most of the flu viruses circulating are the influenza A (H3N2) and B strains. Tests show that all three circulating strains match well with those included in the seasonal flu vaccine, including pandemic 2009 H1N1.
Dec 10 CDC flu surveillance update

South Carolina judge OKs mandatory flu-shot policy
A South Carolina circuit court judge ruled that a local hospital can require its employees to receive a flu shot, according to an Associated Press (AP) story today. The case arose after AnMed Health instituted a mandatory vaccination policy and an employee sued, alleging that the policy violates her privacy. In today's ruling, Judge Cordell Maddox sided with the hospital, giving the employee till Dec 15 to get the shot or face firing. The employee said she expects to be fired but will continue to fight the policy.

Two Korean owls contract avian flu
One day after South Korea surveillance detected H5N1 avian influenza in a wild mallard duck, officials found that two dead eagle owls were infected with "the virulent strain" of avian flu in the west-central part of the country today, according to a report from Yonhap News. The farm ministry underscored that no domestic ducks or chickens have been affected.
Dec 10 Yonhap report

DR-Congo reports polio outbreak
The town of Kikwit in the southwestern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reported 36 recent polio cases, 15 of them fatal, according to a Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA) report yesterday. The neighboring Republic of Congo is battling an outbreak of acute flaccid paralysis believed to be caused by poliovirus that has affected at least 409 people, killing 169, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Two thirds of the patients are 15 to 25 years old. In Kikwit, near the border with Angola, the mayor announced heightened surveillance and a mass vaccination campaign. The DRC cases are primarily affecting adult men, according to the MISNA report. Polio was considered eradicated from the DRC, which saw no cases from 2001 to 2005, but the disease re-emerged in 2006, causing from 3 to 41 cases a year since then, according to data from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
Nov 25 WHO update on polio in Republic of Congo
GPEI most recent polio data

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