NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Nepal, call for BioWatch contractors, undervaccinated tots, thimerosal exemption, poliovirus in Egypt, dengue in Brazil

Jan 22, 2013

H5N1 strikes four more Nepal poultry farms
Animal health authorities in Nepal yesterday reported H5N1 avian flu outbreaks at four commercial broiler poultry farms, all located in the same district of the country's Gandaki zone, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The farms are in Kaski district, which is located in the west central part of the country. The outbreaks began during the first week of January and have killed 1,112 of 3,160 chickens. The remaining 2,048 birds were destroyed to control the spread of the virus. Workers have cleaned and disinfected the areas, and intensive surveillance activities are under way throughout the country, according to the report. Nepal has been battling H5N1 in poultry over the past several months, and outbreaks were recently reported in neighboring Bagmati zone.
Jan 21 OIE report

DHS solicits contractors for 'Gen-3' BioWatch technology
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a draft request for quote (RFQ) for next-generation bioterror-detection technology, known as Gen-3, for its BioWatch program, Homeland Security (HS) Today reported today. The draft RFQ says that DHS will soon hold an industry day in Washington, DC, for contractors interested in bidding on the Gen-3 program but did not specify a date. The bid may be worth as much as $3.1 billion over 5 years, the story said. Gen-3 technology is designed to process samples within an air-sampling collector, rather than require that samples be sent to labs for processing. The BioWatch program has been under federal scrutiny since a series of Los Angeles Times articles questioned the effectiveness of current "Gen-2" technology and the wisdom of developing a Gen-3 program.
Jan 22 HS Today article
Jan 18 DHS RFQ synopsis
Sep 13, 2012, CIDRAP News story on BioWatch controversy

Study: Almost half of US tots do not receive vaccines on schedule
About half of US kids younger than 2 years old do not receive all vaccines as recommended by a federal schedule, according to a study yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics. Of 323,247 children born from 2004 to 2008, Kaiser Permanente researchers found that 157,454 (48.7%) missed their scheduled childhood vaccines by at least a day, and one in eight of those kids' parents intentionally strayed from the schedule recommended by the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. "While a large majority of parents in the US choose to vaccinate their children, a growing number of parents are concerned about vaccine safety and choose to vaccinate their children according to alternative immunization schedules," lead author Jason Glanz, PhD, said in a Kaiser Permanente press release. Of the 323,247 children—who were enrolled in eight managed care organization across the country—38.9% missed the schedule by 10 or more days. The researchers also found that the undervaccinated kids were less likely to visit a doctor or an emergency department.
Jan 21 JAMA Pediatr abstract
Jan 21 JAMA Pediatr editorial on the study
Jan 21 Kaiser Permanente news release

Global mercury-banning treaty exempts thimerosal
A treaty signed by 147 nations late last week to limit the use of mercury granted an exception to the ethylmercury-based thimerosal, widely used as a vaccine preservative in poorer nations that require vaccines delivered in multi-dose vials, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) News reported today. After years of negotiations and pleas from medical organizations to exempt the preservative from the ban, which is designed to decrease environmental levels of the toxic metal, the final version of the treaty, signed Jan 19, exempted thimerosal. "This is a bold stroke for protecting children," said Walter Orenstein, MD, of the Emory Vaccine Center. Last year the AAP and other organizations endorsed a recommendation by the World Health Organization's (WHO's) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization that said that thimerosal-containing vaccines were "safe, essential, and irreplaceable components of immunization" programs.
Jan 22 AAP News story

WHO: Egypt finds wild poliovirus imported from Pakistan
Wild polioviruses similar to strains found in Pakistan have been found in sewage at two sites in Cairo, triggering a search for cases and plans for vaccination campaigns, the WHO announced recently. The isolates found in Cairo are related to the strain of wild poliovirus type 1 that was found in north Sindh, Pakistan, last September, the agency said in a Sep 18 statement. "This is the first documented importation of wild poliovirus from Pakistan, after Egypt was declared polio free, with its last case in May 2004. At this stage, there are no cases (children) of paralysis associated with this importation," the WHO said. The viruses were found in the Al Haggana and Al Salam districts in Cairo through routine testing of sewage. As a result, the frequency of testing has been increased from monthly to biweekly, and a field investigation with a search for cases has been launched. The Egyptian government, working with the WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), is planning a vaccination campaign aiming to reach 3 million children under age 5 in Cairo. Meanwhile, in a joint statement, WHO, UNICEF, and the Polio Monitoring Cell in Pakistan have described the situation as critical and alarming for the polio program in Pakistan, according to the WHO. The statement said children under the age of 5 departing Pakistan would be given polio drops at special counters at airports.
Jan 18 WHO statement

Brazilian city declares emergency over dengue epidemic
Campo Grande, a city of 800,000 in southwestern Brazil, has declared an emergency after registering close to 7,700 dengue fever cases since Dec 31, China's Xinhua news agency said yesterday. The city has had about 300 cases a day in recent weeks, with 7,697 reported between Dec 31 and Jan 18, the story said. Mayor Alcides Bernal said the emergency declaration will provide for greater agility in fighting the outbreak. The city plans to hire an additional 160 healthcare workers and step up control efforts. The story noted that the mosquito-borne disease is fairly common in Brazil, especially in the summertime.
Jan 21 Xinhua story

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