NEWS SCAN: US flu declines, BSE probe update, fatal lab infection, WHO's hand hygiene efforts

May 4, 2012

CDC reports declining flu activity, Tamiflu resistance in Texas
Flu circulation in most states has fallen to summer baseline levels, but two states—Alaska and New York—are still reporting widespread activity, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. Though the percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for flu fell last week from 22.2% to 15.3%, it is still above the 10% threshold the CDC uses to signify that the flu season has started or is ongoing. The percentage of doctors visits for flulike illness dropped again and is now at 1.1%, and overall deaths from pneumonia and flu stayed below the epidemic threshold. Two more pediatric deaths were reported, raising the season's total to 20. Testing revealed one more 2009 H1N1 virus that was resistant to oseltamivir (Tamiflu), raising the season's total to 16. The CDC said 11 of the 16 positive samples were from Texas, which has seen higher levels of flu activity than other states. Though the Texas level of oseltamivir resistance is higher than the national level, it is still considered quite low in the state, the CDC added. Of 14 patients with resistant 2009 H1N1 infections and exposure information, 3 were using oseltamivir for at least 1 day when the specimen was collected, and 2 had family members who were using the drug.
May 4 CDC flu update
May 4 CDC flu situation update
Meanwhile, Europe is nearing the end of its flu season, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today. Nearly all countries are reporting low intensity and decreasing or stable flu trends, the agency said. The proportion of influenza B viruses continues its late-season increase, according to the ECDC's weekly update.
May 4 ECDC flu update

USDA quarantines second farm in BSE investigation
In an update on the latest US case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said this week that a second dairy farm in California has been quarantined and that a calf of the infected cow tested negative for the disease. The nation's fourth BSE case and first since 2006 was reported Apr 24 in a 10-year-old California dairy cow, which was culled for lameness and was held out of the food and feed supplies. The case was detected through routine BSE testing at a rendering facility where the cow had been taken. In a May 2 statement, the USDA said a hold order has been placed on cattle at a dairy farm that is associated with the BSE cow's farm. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has inventoried both farms and was checking records to determine if any at-risk cattle are present, the statement said. Also under investigation is a calf ranch where the BSE cow was raised 10 years ago, the USDA said. The agency also reported that one offspring of the sick cow was found in another state and euthanized and that testing showed it did not have BSE. A second progeny of the BSE cow was stillborn. The cow's illness has been described as "atypical" BSE, possibly caused by a random mutation rather than by eating contaminated feed, the usual cause of the disease.
May 2 USDA update
Apr 27 CIDRAP News item
Apr 24 CIDRAP News story

Lab researcher dies of infection apparently contracted at work
A research associate at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center died Apr 28 of a bloodstream infection caused by Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium he had worked with in the hospital lab, according to media reports. The researcher was identified as Richard Din, 25, of San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today. The story said he had been handling the bacteria for several weeks before his death and that he died just 17 hours after getting sick. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating how he was exposed to the pathogen, according to the story. A hospital official told the newspaper that Din's coworkers described him as "fastidious" and said there was no evidence of spills or equipment failure. Din's coworkers and close contacts were being treated with preventive antibiotics, the official said. For the past 6 months Din had been working for the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, which works to advance veterans' health research at the hospital, the story said. Illnesses caused by N meningitidis, including bloodstream infections and one form of meningitis, are called meningococcal disease and are fatal in about 50% of cases if not treated, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH).
May 4 Chronicle story
San Francisco DPH information on meningococcal disease

WHO announces hand hygiene efforts
The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced its annual "Save Lives: Clean Your Hands" campaign designed to reduced healthcare-associated infections through better hand hygiene, especially in developing nations. "Most health care-associated infections are preventable through good hand hygiene—health-care workers [HCWs] cleaning hands, at the right times and in the right way," the agency said in a news release. The WHO encourages leadership in promoting hand hygiene in individual countries, commitment to making patient safety a priority, and networking among nations to promote the campaign, which was started in 2009.
May 5 WHO news release
WHO campaign home page
Meanwhile, two studies published this week highlighted successes in promoting hand hygiene in Great Britain and in Belgium. A UK campaign called "cleanyourhands," begun in 2005 to promote HCW hand washing and disinfection, was linked to an almost-tripling of the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and soap and water in 4 years. As reported in BMJ, investigators also found that rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile infections were cut almost in half. In Belgium, researchers found compliance with hand hygiene increased after 1-month promotional campaigns that included reminders, HCW education, promotion of hand sanitizer, and patient education. As detailed in Eurosurveillance yesterday, rates after each of the four campaigns from 2005 to 2011 increased, respectively, from 49.6% to 68.6%, from 53.2% to 69.5%, from 58.0% to 69.1%, and from 62.3% to 72.9%.
May 3 BMJ study
May 3 Eurosurveillance report

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