NEWS SCAN: Two nations OK Novartis flu vaccines, West Nile update, Uganda Marburg outbreak, mango inspections, yellow fever in Sudan

Oct 31, 2012

Canada, Switzerland resume Novartis flu vaccine distribution
Canadian officials have cleared two Novartis seasonal flu vaccines for immediate use after conducting its own safety review of the products, which the company temporarily pulled due to concerns in other countries, according to a statement today from Health Canada. The agency temporarily suspended distribution of the products on Oct 26. Health Canada said it based the clearance decision on tests and a risk assessment, along with reviews from European partners and from Novartis. None of the data pointed to a safety issue, according to the statement. The Public Health Agency of Canada reminded practitioners to follow label directions, allow the vaccine to come to room temperature and shake before use, and observe for any white floating material before use. Health Canada said the material is not uncommon in vaccines and does not pose a safety risk. Swiss drug regulators today also lifted their suspension of the two Novartis vaccines after the company documented the quality of batches that have been delivered to Switzerland, according to a statement posted on the country's Federal Office of Public Health Web site. Over the past week six European countries and Canada had halted use of Novartis Fluad and Agrippal flu vaccines after concerns surfaced about protein particles or aggregates seen in certain batches.
Oct 31 Health Canada statement
Oct 31 Swiss government statement

CDC: 166 West Nile cases and 4 deaths reported in past week
Another 166 cases of West Nile virus (WNV) disease and 4 deaths have been reported in the past week, raising the US totals for this year to 4,891 cases and 223 deaths, according to numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday. The new figures mark a drop from last week, when 194 cases and 36 deaths were reported. More than half of the reported cases, 2,498, have been neuroinvasive disease, the most serious form of the infection. The CDC has described this year as the worst West Nile season for the United States since 2003. Texas has accounted for about a third of the disease burden, with 1,665 cases and 75 deaths.
Oct 30 CDC WNV case chart

New cases push Uganda's Marburg outbreak to 19 cases, 9 deaths
Uganda's outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever has now reached 19 cases and 9 deaths, according to an update from the World Health Organization (WHO) today. The numbers include 7 more cases and 1 more death than stated by the country's health minister 2 days ago. Cases have been reported in five districts: Kabale, Kampala, Ibanda, Mbarara, and Kabarole. Currently 13 case-patients are hospitalized, with the most recent admitted Oct 26. Blood tests have confirmed the disease in nine patients, and one of those who died was a health worker, the WHO said. The agency said it and its international partners are assisting local authorities with outbreak investigation and response. The outbreak was first declared by the country's Ministry of Health on Oct 19.
Oct 31 WHO update

FDA's 'high risk' label means more inspections for mangoes
Although the US Food and Drug Administration has not shared the news with consumers, it has declared mangoes to be a "high risk" fruit after a Salmonella outbreak this summer, Food Safety News (FSN) reported today. The National Mango Board, which is sanctioned by the US Department of Agriculture, is spreading the word to mango growers around the world. (Ninety-nine percent of US mangoes come from six countries, according to FSN: Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala, and Haiti.) Because of the new status, William Watson, executive director of the National Mango Board, advised industry officials in a letter, "Look for longer hold time on fruit going through the process" and "double check your protocols and address any shortcomings immediately." He added, "Unfortunately, these additional inspections are most likely going to be the new norm." An outbreak traced to Mexican mangoes this past summer involved 143 salmonellosis cases.
Oct 31 FSN story

Sudan reports yellow fever outbreak
Sudan's health ministry has reported a yellow fever outbreak in seven districts of Central and South Darfur states, according to an Oct 29 statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) eastern Mediterranean regional office. Since early October 84 suspected infections, 32 of them fatal, have been reported from Azoom, Kass, Mershing, Nertiti, Wadi Salih, and Zalingei districts. The health ministry said the immediate priorities are to control the mosquito vector, boost disease surveillance, and raise public awareness about disease prevention and control, according to the WHO statement. The health ministry has sent samples to a reference laboratory for reconfirmation, a step needed to obtain yellow fever vaccine from the global stockpile.
Oct 29 WHO statement

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