NEWS SCAN: Korea's dual outbreaks, flu lessons for kids, Egypt sees no flu mutations, US sick-leave gap

Jan 10, 2011

South Korea reports 3 new avian flu outbreaks
South Korea continues to reel from its dual-outbreak crisis of avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), as it confirmed three new avian flu outbreaks yesterday, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. Its agriculture ministry confirmed three new outbreaks at duck farms in Yeongam County in the southeastern part of the country, which bring the outbreak total to seven since Dec 31. The ministry's Web site said at least 396,000 "chickens, ducks, and other birds" have been or will be culled, according to the story. Officials have placed quarantine zones around the farms and are disinfecting people and vehicles. Meanwhile, the AFP report said 108 cases of FMD have been confirmed since the outbreak began in South Korea on Nov 29. At least 948,000 cattle and pigs in 40 cities and counties have been culled, which is about 7% of such livestock, with financial losses estimated at US $890 million. Officials have vaccinated 1.5 million cattle and pigs, thereby risking a longer export ban by overseas buyers because it takes a country that uses vaccines longer to regain international disease-free status.

CDC toolkit offers flu lessons for kids
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Jan 7 released a toolkit for teaching children about flu prevention. The resources, primarily targeted to childcare providers, include lesson plans, suggested activities, songs, and coloring and puzzle pages. The materials also include posters for child-care centers and handouts that target flu prevention messages to parents. Lessons for children ages 3 to 7 cover hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes. A lesson plan for children ages 8 to 10 focuses on how germs spread. The CDC's toolkit is available on its Web site.
CDC flu teaching toolkit

Egypt finds no signs of H1N1 or H5N1 mutation
With Egypt reporting active circulation of the 2009 H1N1 virus and seven recent human cases of H5N1 avian influenza infection, the country's health minister today said there is no sign that the two viruses have reassorted, according to Ahram Online, an English language Web site of Al-Ahram news organization. Hatem El-Gabaly also said laboratories have found no evidence of mutations in the 2009 H1N1 virus circulating in Egypt. He added that the death toll from the disease is lower this year than during the wave of infections that took place in 2010. El-Gabaly also asked ministries and governors to support a bill that would bar poultry farming and slaughtering in residential areas, according to the Ahram Online report.

Policy group says 44 million private-sector workers lack sick leave
Only 58% of US private-sector workers have paid sick leave, meaning about 44 million workers in the private sector don't have it, the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) said last week. The institute, based in Washington, DC, and affiliated with George Washington University, said the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated in 2010 that 62% of private-sector workers have sick leave, but the BLS didn't consider the fact that, on average, such workers have to be on the job 78 days before they can actually use any sick leave. The IWPR estimated that in 2010, 4.2 million workers officially were eligible for sick leave but in reality couldn't use it because of short job tenure. "The fewer the number of workers who are able to stay home when sick, the more likely it is that diseases will spread, increasing healthcare costs and causing needless economic losses," Dr. Robert Drago, director of research at IWPR, said in a news release. Only 23% of workers in the food service industry have paid sick leave, the lowest rate of any group, the IWPR said. Other workers with a low rate of sick-leave access include those in construction and extraction occupations, protective services, and personal care and service. The group based its estimates on the BLS's National Compensation Survey and the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

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