NEWS SCAN: Canadian food outbreak patterns, polio immunization attack, hydrogen peroxide disinfection

Jan 2, 2013

Fresh greens, sprouts lead Canadian foodborne illness produce list
An analysis of foodborne illness outbreaks linked to fresh produce in Canada found that the most frequent bacterial culprit was Salmonella, responsible for about half of bacterial outbreaks, followed by Escherichia coli (33%) and Shigella (17%). Bacteria accounted for 67% of the 27 produce outbreaks reported in 2001 through 2009. The review, conducted by researchers from Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, appears in the January issue the Journal of Food Protection. Canada has one of the world's highest per capita rates of fruit and vegetable consumption. The researchers estimated that the 27 outbreaks caused 1,549 infections. Foods that were most often traced to the outbreaks were leafy greens and herbs, which accounted for 26% of outbreaks, and seed sprouts, which were implicated in 11% of the events.
Jan J Food Prot abstract

Polio immunization motive suspected in latest Pakistan attack
Militants in northwestern Pakistan yesterday opened fire on a van carrying teachers and aid workers, an act that some suspect could be part of attacks against polio immunization campaign workers, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Two groups of gunmen on motorcycles stopped the van and killed five female teachers and two aid workers who were on their way home from their jobs at a community center that included a school and a medical clinic. The attackers also injured the driver. Javed Akhtar, who directs Support With Working Solution, told the AP that the medical clinic vaccinated kids against polio and that many of the group's staff had participated in immunization campaigns. The killings occurred in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where militants shot and seriously wounded a 15-year-girl who was an outspoken proponent for education, according to the report. The latest violence follows similar attacks that killed nine polio workers in northwestern Pakistan in December. Some militants oppose polio vaccination due to suspicions that the workers are spies for the United States or that the vaccines are a western plot to sterilize Muslim children.
Jan 1 AP story

Hospital-room disinfection with hydrogen peroxide vapor
Robotically delivered hydrogen peroxide vapor used to disinfect hospital rooms was associated with an almost two-thirds reduction in infections with multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs), according to a Johns Hopkins study in yesterday's Clinical Infectious Diseases. Hydrogen peroxide vaporizers were first deployed in Singapore hospitals during the 2003 SARS outbreak and were later stockpiled by several US agencies in case of a bioterror attack, according to a Johns Hopkins news release. Researchers compared the robotic disinfection with standard disinfection for 30 months in rooms that had housed MDRO patients. Vaporizing happened in two steps, with a washing-machine-sized robot-like unit dispersing hydrogen peroxide into sealed hospital rooms, leaving a very thin layer on all exposed surfaces, including keyboards, walls, and floors. A second, slightly smaller, unit broke down the peroxide into water and oxygen so it didn't harm humans or equipment. Such treatment was associated with a 64% reduction in infections with MDROs overall and an 80% drop in vancomycin-resistant enterococci infections compared with standard cleaning. The paired units cost $40,000, according to the press release, and are currently used by 20 US hospitals.
Jan 1 Clin Infect Dis abstract
Dec 31 Johns Hopkins press release
Jan 1 Clin Infect Dis commentary on the study

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