NEWS SCAN: H5N2 in Taiwan, outbreak tuna plant flaws, cholera vaccine in Haiti, cell phone alerts

May 15, 2012

H5N2 outbreaks hit two Taiwanese farms
Animal health officials in Taiwan yesterday reported two H5N2 avian influenza outbreaks at poultry farms, one involving the highly pathogenic strain and one linked to the low-pathogenic version, according to reports to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Both locations are in the west central part of Taiwan. Highly pathogenic H5N2 was detected at a farm in Yun Lin county after a veterinarian noted poultry illnesses and deaths. The disease killed 3,850 of 15,461 susceptible poultry, and the remaining birds were culled to control the spread of the virus. An investigation found no other outbreaks at nearby farms. Meanwhile, low-pathogenic H5N2 was detected at a duck farm in T'ai Chung during active surveillance. The birds didn't show any clinical signs, and all 176 of the farms ducks were destroyed as a preventive step.
May 14 OIE report on highly pathogenic outbreak
May 14 OIE report on low-pathogenic outbreak

FDA cites food-safety flaws at India tuna plant linked to Salmonella outbreak
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a report detailing 10 problems at a plant in India implicated in a 116-case outbreak of raw-tuna-linked Salmonella illness. FDA inspectors began a 6-day review of the plant on Apr 19, 6 days after officials announced that yellowfin tuna imported by Moon Marine USA Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., was the likely outbreak source. Four of the violations were noncompliance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines: (1) no critical control point (CCP) for the process of cutting, scraping and vacuum packaging; (2) no CCP for Clostridium botulinum and allergen labeling; (3) no CCP for metal detection; and (4) no critical limit for vessel monitoring and histamine records to show temperature was not at harmful levels. All companies that import food into the United States must comply with HACCP guidelines. Other shortcomings listed were lack of water monitoring; broken floor and wall tiles; product residue on knives, utensil storage boxes, and the ceiling after cleaning; peeling paint above the product processing line; and a lack of hand dryers in employee restrooms. The facility is in Alleppey in the Indian state of Kerala, according to the FDA report.
FDA plant assessment report

Cholera vaccination drive in Haiti progressing
The first phase of a pilot campaign to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians against cholera has been completed, the American Red Cross said in a statement posted on ReliefWeb yesterday. The first of two doses of vaccine was administered to 50,000 adults and children older than 9 years in the Artibonite region, which absorbed the brunt of the 2010 cholera epidemic, the organization said. The campaign goal is to provide two doses to 100,000 people in targeted rural and urban areas. "From everything I've seen, there is no one who was eligible for the vaccine who didn't want it," said Djencia Eresa Augustin, a cholera surveyor for Partners in Health, the Boston-based nonprofit group that's leading the project. Vaccination teams were planning to give second doses to adults this week, and they will start vaccinating children under age 9 in the last week of May, the Red Cross said. The organization said it is contributing $1 million to the $1.3 million project. The oral vaccine, Shanchol, is 65% to 75% effective for up to 3 years, the statement said.
May 14 American Red Cross statement

Cell phone emergency alert system set to debut
A nationwide program to deliver weather and national emergency warnings to cell phones is slated to go live this month, according to media reports. The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), also known as the Personalized Local Alerting Network (PLAN), was proposed by the Federal Communications Commission based on the Warning Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act passed by Congress in 2006 along with $106 million in funding. The move was designed to modernize the nation's emergency alert system, according to CTIA wireless emergency alerts consumer information (CTIA is an industry organization for wireless companies). The system is voluntary for cell phone companies, and so far at least seven companies are participating, including some of the nation's largest carriers. The free messages include local weather alerts, Amber alerts, and presidential alerts. Consumers can opt out of all but the presidential alerts. The alerts, which carriers offer for free, look like text messages but are distinguished by their own tone and vibration. The messages are geographically targeted and sent using a one-way system that isn't able to track consumers' cell phones, according to background information from federal agencies and CTIA. Older cell phones may not be able to use the CMAS technology, and some newer ones may require software upgrades. Some cell phone companies have already tested the system and have rolled out the program in selected locations.
CTIA wireless emergency alerts consumer information
May 14 USA Today story
FCC Q and A

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