FOOD SAFETY SCAN: Cholera in West Africa, food safety center in Minnesota

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Sep 6, 2012

Groups warn rains will worsen West Africa's cholera outbreak
A cholera epidemic in West Africa will worsen as rains and flooding promote the spread of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned yesterday in a statement. So far 55,289 cholera cases in 15 countries have been reported, with the disease spreading fast in Mano River Basin countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone, those along the Congo River, and western Niger. The groups said 1,109 deaths have been reported. Some of the hardest hit countries are experiencing unusually heavy rains, which have flooded shantytowns in some urban areas and contributed to the spread of the disease. The number of cases in West and Central Africa this year is 34% higher than in the same period last year, and health officials expect cases to climb during the rainy season. Luis Sambo, MD, the WHO's regional director for Africa, said in the statement, "Governments need to declare an emergency early so as to benefit from the necessary technical and other support of partners. Just as crucial are better surveillance and cross-border collaboration between health authorities."
Sep 5 UNICEF press release

CDC picks Minnesota for regional Food Safety Center of Excellence
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has chosen the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health (SPH) to set up one of five regional Food Safety Centers of Excellence for detecting and responding to foodborne disease outbreaks, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., announced yesterday. The CDC awarded the MDH $199,970 to help set up the center, which will provide other states with support and training for conducting food safety surveillance and outbreak investigations, Klobuchar said in a press release. "Minnesota has been a leader in the effort to improve food safety, and today's announcement means that our state will continue to be on the front lines in the fight to keep consumers safe," Klobuchar said in the release. She and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., authored the portion of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, enacted in 2011, that established the Food Safety Centers of Excellence. Since then, Klobuchar said, she has worked with CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, to ensure that the five centers receive funds to begin operating. "Because outbreak investigations are the only way to identify new food safety hazards, the Centers will have an important role to play in rapidly identifying and effectively responding to these new threats," Craig Hedberg, PhD, of the SPH's Division of Environmental Health Sciences, commented in the press release.
Sep 5 Klobuchar press release

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