NEWS SCAN: Pertussis in Utah, fungal meningitis outbreak, novel coronavirus probe, cantaloupe farm problems, Pakistan polio funds

Oct 3, 2012

Utah having its worst pertussis year since 1946
With 851 pertussis cases so far this year, Utah is facing its worst pertussis outbreak since 1946, in the pre-vaccine era, a state health official told the Salt Lake Tribune. The Utah Department of Health (UDH) said the 851 cases reported through Sep 29 compare with 618 cases in all of 2011 and are close to double the 440 recorded by this time last year. Utah's pertussis incidence rate so far this year is 40 cases per 100,000 person-years, well above the national incidence rate of 9.3 per 100,000 person-years. There have been 86 cases in babies under 1 year old, with a "handful" of hospitalizations but no deaths this year, the Tribune reported. The story said the high case count may be due in part to better testing and greater awareness of pertussis. It noted that the national pertussis case count stood at about 29,000 as of Sep 20.
Oct 2 Tribune story
Oct 2 UDH pertussis summary

Steroid drug suspected in fungal meningitis outbreak
Health officials are investigating a fungal meningitis outbreak that has suspected links to contaminated steroids and has so far sickened 26 people in five states, with 4 deaths, NBC News reported today. The story said 18 patients are from Tennessee, which first announced the outbreak on Oct 1, noting that it and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were investigating 11 meningitis patients who were treated at an outpatient surgical and pain management clinic in Nashville and one at a facility in another state. Today the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) said illnesses were also linked to a center in Crossville, Tenn. The agency said biopsy samples have revealed fungal infections consistent with Aspergillus in two patients, raising the number of confirmed cases to three. TDH director John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, said the state's healthcare providers have been notified that the suspected source of the infections is methylprednisolone acetate produced by a compounding pharmacy. Other affected states are North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland, according to the NBC report, which said the pain drug intended for spinal injections was made without a preservative. The story said the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are testing pain medications and other materials used in the injections, and so far Aspergillus hasn't been found in the drug.
Oct 3 NBC News report
Oct 3 TDH media telebriefing transcript
Oct 1 TDH press release

Research teams poised to investigate new coronavirus source
Saudi Arabia's health ministry has asked research teams from two US-based centers to help identify the source of the novel coronavirus that has sickened two patients, one fatally, who were in the country, according to a Twitter post yesterday from one of the groups, the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University. The EcoHealth Alliance, an international organization based in New York City that specializes on the relationships among wildlife, ecosystems, and human health, was also asked to assist. CII also said that its mobile team is en route to Riyadh and that scientists from the US CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are headed to the area as well. The identification of the new coronavirus has reestablished research and public health networks that assembled after the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus emerged in 2003, Nature reported today. Dr Christian Drosten, who directs the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Centre in Germany, told Nature that the SARS efforts put scientists in a better position to understand the virus and develop countermeasures, if needed. For example, he said animal models developed for SARS will help scientists explore the pathogenicity and spread of the new virus.
CII Twitter feed
Oct 3 Nature story

FDA lists problems at cantaloupe farm tied to Salmonella outbreak
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors found widespread contamination at Chamberlain Farms Inc., the Indiana farm implicated in the recent outbreak of Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Typhimurium from contaminated cantaloupe, according to an FDA report. The report, covering inspections from Aug 14 through Aug 31, states that Salmonella was found in cataloupes collected in fields and in a cardboard bin and in environmental swabs collected from various locations and surfaces in the farm's packing shed. The inspector described "a buildup of black, green, and brown buildup" on rollers and belts of the conveyor system used during processing as well as debris and standing water with what appeared to be algae beneath the conveyer belt. In addition, the water used for washing the fruit was coming from nozzles that looked rusty, and there was no monitoring of levels of chlorine in the sanitizer tank. Finally, garbage receptacles were overflowing, potentially providing a setting for pests to congregate and breed. The inspection form states that the findings were observations and do not constitute a final agency determination regarding compliance with food safety regulations. The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update on the outbreak, issued Sep 13, shows 270 cases from 26 states, with 101 hospitalizations and three deaths.
FDA inspection report
Sep 13 CDC outbreak report

More money for polio vaccination in Pakistan
Pakistan, one of only three countries where polio is still endemic, will receive credits of $24 million from the World Bank to support efforts to immunize every child in the country against the disease, the bank announced yesterday. The funds, the third allocation in a series of loans through the Third Partnership for Polio Eradication Project (TPPEP), have lenient payback requirements. The Pakistani government, through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), intends to immunize 34.8 million children under age 5. Recent floods in the country have forced large numbers of people into temporary housing, often without adequate water and sanitation, which means many people could be newly exposed to polio. In addition, security concerns related to political unrest and military conflicts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have seriously affected immunization coverage there; the majority of reported cases are coming from those areas, where 90% of children have not been adequately immunized.
Oct 2 World Bank press release

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