NEWS SCAN: US West Nile cases, MRSA in wildlife, Novartis flu vaccine stoppage in Italy

Oct 24, 2012

West Nile cases reach 4,725, including 219 deaths
US West Nile cases climbed to 4,725 this week, including 219 deaths (5% of cases) and 2,413 cases involving neuroinvasive disease (51%), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an update today. Those numbers signal a slight decline in the rate of new cases but a spike in the rate of new deaths. The CDC reported 194 new cases this week, compared with 282 the week before and 280 the week before that. In comparison, the agency reported 36 new deaths this week, compared with 15 and 5 in the previous 2 weeks, respectively. The outbreak is the largest at this point in the year since 2003, the CDC said. More than a third of the cases have been from Texas.
Oct 24 CDC update

MRSA found in wild rabbits, shorebird in Iowa
Iowa researchers identified methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in wild rabbits and a migratory shorebird, according to a study in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. In their pilot study, the team obtained nasal, wing, wound, and cloacal swabs from 114 animals at a rehabilitation clinic. Of the animals tested, seven had methicillin-susceptible S aureus and three—two eastern cottontails and a lesser yellowlegs shorebird—had MRSA. Two of the MRSA isolates were also resistant to tetracycline and erythromycin, and the other was also resistant to erythromycin, clindamycin, and levofloxacin. The authors conclude, "Our results suggest that S aureus, including MRSA, is being carried by wild animals, although at a low prevalence with the limited number of animals tested."
October J Wildl Dis abstract

Italy, Switzerland suspend sales of Novartis flu vaccines
Italy and Switzerland have suspended sales of two Novartis influenza vaccines after the company found a buildup of proteins in the shots, Bloomberg News reported today. Novartis did not detail the exact makeup of the proteins in its Agrippal and Fluad vaccines to allow officials to know the impact of their presence on vaccine safety, but the company noted "quality defects that are potentially dangerous for public health," Italy's Health Ministry said. The ministry has called for further quality testing of the vaccines, according to the story. The ban affects about 488,000 doses, the ministry said. Swiss drug regulator Swissmedic halted distribution of the vaccines as a precaution after Italy's decision, the regulator said today. Novartis notified Italy of the issues with the vaccine orally on Oct 18 and in writing Oct 19, but the company has known of the particle buildup since Jul 11, Italian officials said. Italy had planned to buy 3 million doses of Novartis flu vaccines and will now seek other contracts, the story said.
Oct 24 Bloomberg News story

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