NEWS SCAN: Anthrax vaccine disposal, Salmonella from 'feeder rodents,' tainted ultrasound gel

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Apr 19, 2012

Official: Up to $48 million in anthrax vaccine gets tossed each year
As many as 2 million doses of anthrax vaccine—worth $48 million—are discarded each year from the US Strategic National Stockpile, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told a congressional hearing, according to the online newsletter Fierce Homeland Security yesterday. James Polk, principal deputy secretary of the DHS Office of Health Affairs, told the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications on Apr 17 that federal officials throw out vaccine as it expires. The story noted that, to maintain a stockpile of at least 10 million anthrax vaccine doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bought 29 million doses from 2006 to 2011.
Apr 18 Fierce Homeland Security story
Apr 17 Polk testimony

'Feeder rodents' cited in 22-state Salmonella outbreak
Forty-six people contracted Salmonella infections from rodents used as food for pet reptiles and amphibians over about 5 months, and Salmonella may now be endemic in "feeder rodents," according to the CDC today. The outbreak involves the strain known as Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-, which was also involved in 2009 and 2010 US outbreaks, both linked to frozen feeder rodents from a single supplier, the CDC said in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). In the latest episode, 46 cases were identified from Aug 29, 2011, to Ground Hog Day, 2012, in 22 states. Patients had a median age of 11, and 37% were 5 or younger. Investigators interviewed 27 patients, 6 of whom were hospitalized, 20 reported exposure to reptiles or amphibians, and 15 were exposed to feeder rodents. "Frozen mice specimens from two North Carolina pet stores where two patients purchased feeder rodents yielded the outbreak strain," the report says. Tracking the source of the mice was difficult, but two breeders supplying pet stores where patients had bought rodents had received mice from the company implicated in the 2009 and 2010 outbreaks. "Given the wide distribution of illnesses, rodent suppliers, and pet stores, the outbreak strain might now be endemic in feeder rodents," the CDC says. The agency said young children should avoid exposure to reptiles and amphibians, and owners of animals that are fed live or frozen rodents should be aware of the risk for salmonellosis.
Apr 20 MMWR article

Contaminated ultrasound gel sickens ICU patients in Michigan
Michigan officials today reported in MMWR a Pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak linked to contaminated ultrasound gel that affected 16 patients in a Royal Oak hospital's intensive care unit. The hospital's epidemiology department first noted an increase in the number of positive cultures from endotracheal tubes in late December 2011. Of the 16 cases, 7 were based on established criteria and 9 who were colonized infections. A staff investigation revealed that the cases were linked to use of an ultrasound transmission gel from a single manufacturer that was used during transesophageal echocardiography, a procedure that helps visualize the posterior heart during cardiac surgery. Cultures from one open and one sealed bottle drew P aeruginosa that was closely related to the outbreak strain. The hospital replaced the product with single-use sterile gel for all potentially invasive procedures, ordered a health system–wide recall, and notified the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Apr 20 MMWR report
In a related development, US Marshals seized Other-Sonic Generic Ultrasound Transmission Gel that was located at Pharmaceutical Innovations, Inc., in Newark, N.J., after an FDA analysis of product samples collected in Feb 2012 found P aeruginosa and Klebsiella oxytoca, the FDA said yesterday in a statement. The seizure applies to all lots of the product made from June to December 2011. The FDA also said it issued an alert to healthcare providers warning that bacteria in the product pose infection risks.
Apr 18 FDA news release

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