NEWS SCAN: EU dengue risk report, 1 more cantaloupe Listeria death, meat labeling claims, polio vaccine efforts

Jul 26, 2012

Dengue risk assessment shows low threat to EU
The risk of dengue transmission in Europe is low, but climate conditions are suitable in some areas, and public health groups should be on guard, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today in a risk assessment. The ECDC commissioned the risk assessment in 2009 following a 2007 chikungunya outbreak on the continent that raised concerns about the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, according to the report, which incorporates data on climate, environmental conditions, population density, geography, and global distribution of the two mosquito species that spread dengue: Aedes aegypti and A albopictus. Authors of the report used mathematical modeling techniques to produce maps showing the areas of greatest risk. They found that much of central and Mediterranean Europe could be a suitable habitat for A albopictus, the species less likely to spread disease. They also found that Mediterranean areas of Spain, France, and Italy, along with southeastern Europe, may support A aegypti, though the likelihood would depend on several factors, including vector control and competition with A albopictus. More research is needed to understand the ecology of dengue in the Europe, the ECDC said in the report. The agency said it expects to issue guidelines this year on surveillance for invasive mosquitoes and how to better harmonize EU data collection.
Jul 26 ECDC statement
Jul 26 ECDC technical report

Death toll from 2011 cantaloupe Listeria outbreak rises to 33
The death toll from last year's Listeria outbreak related to cantaloupe has risen by one, to 33, as officials have added a Montana man's death to the total, according to The Packer, a news outlet covering the produce industry. The outbreak had already been the country's deadliest caused by foodborne disease in more than 25 years. The 75-year-old man, who died in January and had been sick after eating cantaloupe in September, was infected by a strain of Listeria that the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) recently added to the four strains already tied to the outbreak, which stemmed from contaminated Colorado cantaloupe. "We finished the investigation Jul 18 and the CDC is adding him to the death toll," said Job Ebelt, a public information officer for Montana's health department. The CDC had earlier added his case to the total, which now stands at 147, but officials wanted to verify the cause of death, Food Safety News (FSN) reported yesterday.
Jul 24 The Packer story
Jul 25 FSN article

USDA exploring antibiotic-related meat label claims
A consumer group's letter to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) voicing its concerns about antibiotics claims on meat labels has led the agency to explore the issue and draw up guidance for industry that it will unveil later this year, FSN reported today. The Consumers Union (CU), the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports, sent a Jun 18 letter to the USDA asking it to explore three unapproved claims that it found among 20 claims during a recent shopping survey. Claims such as "no antibiotics residue" could be confusing or misleading to consumers, according to the group's letter. The CU also urged the USDA to approve claims that consumers can easily understand. In response, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a Jul 6 letter that accurate labeling is important and noted that the USDA has updated guidance material for companies to use when requesting label approval that should be publicly available later this year. Vilsack also said the USDA would investigate the validity of the claims the CU highlighted and asked the group to submit copies of the labels they found.
Jul 26 FSN story

Pakistan police called to handle polio vaccine resistance
Pakistan police in part of Punjab province were summoned by doctors to help force families who refused polio immunization to have their children vaccinated, the UK-based Daily Telegraph reported yesterday. The families who refused are part of a conservative sect in Punjab's Dera Ghazi Khan district. A doctor told the paper that social organizations and religious leaders were also called in when 20 children refused to be vaccinated and that all were vaccinated, including three or four that required police intervention. The incident is the latest in a string of clashes during a new immunization push against the disease that has been marred by two incidents in Karachi against polio immunization workers, including the Jul 20 shooting death of a local community worker and a Jul 17 armed attack against a doctor from Ghana and his driver. Health officials had been making some headway in enlisting religious figures to help convince people to have their children vaccinated, but Taliban leaders in conflict regions barred the activities to retaliate against drone strikes and events that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden, which created suspicions that vaccination campaigns could be covers for spying operations.
Jul 25 Daily Telegraph story
In other developments, a campaign to eradicate measles and polio in neighboring Afghanistan over the past 2 weeks reached 5.6 million children, the United Nations (UN), which supported the campaign, announced yesterday. About 27,000 health workers and volunteers fanned out across 16 of the country's 34 provinces to administer one dose of measles vaccine and the polio vaccine to children ages 9 months to 10 years old. The World Health Organization (WHO) said more funds are needed to launch the next phase of the campaign, slated to cover the country's other 18 provinces in September.
Jul 25 UN press release

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