News Scan for Jul 08, 2013

Chinese H7N9 public response
New Codex produce safety standards
Cyclospora outbreak in Iowa, Nebraska
Tick-borne virus in South Korea

Survey finds trust high in Chinese government over H7N9

Chinese residents who were polled about 3 weeks into the H7N9 avian flu outbreak had a solid understanding of the disease and its symptoms and trusted government officials, researchers reported in the Journal of Infection.

Their Web-based survey included responses from 637 mainland China residents who were chosen randomly from an online data pool. The response rate was 92%.

People were questioned about what they thought caused the outbreak, what they understood about the illness, what measures they took to prevent disease, and whether they were anxious about the disease.

Though government sources provided timely and transparent information and people performed most of the recommended behaviors, some respondents reported moderate anxiety. Fully 96% said they adopted at least one recommended behavior change, such as avoiding those who were sick.

Medication purchases—reported by 41% of respondents—led to potential shortages, and only 7% said they would self-isolate if infected.

Some people said they postponed travel, and some of the most worried respondents wrongly suspected that certain groups, such as the sexually active, were at greater risk of contracting the disease. Those who used traditional and social media sources were more likely to adopt recommended behaviors.

The researchers said that concerns about newly emerging diseases can change rapidly, and understanding the first impressions could be useful for addressing later disruptive behaviors.
Jul 5 J Infect abstract

Codex adopts new measures for produce contaminants, animal feed

Codex Alimentarius, the world's food standard–setting body, adopted several new food safety standards at its recent meeting in Rome, including one on preventing contamination in fresh berries of norovirus, hepatitis, and other microbiological agents, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today in a statement.

The commission also adopted codes on preventing ochratoxin A, a carcinogen, in cocoa and hydrocyanic acid in cassava. Other measures included the adoption of new guidance on how to assess and prevent the risk of contamination from animal feed in foods such as eggs, meat, and milk products.

Members created a new committee on spices and culinary herbs to address the volume of trade and the need to harmonize national standards.

The meeting, held in Rome from Jul 1 through 5, was attended by 620 delegates from 128 member states and one member organization. Earlier in the meeting WHO and FAO officials praised Codex Alimentarius, which turned 50 this year.
Jul 8 FAO/WHO statement

Cyclospora outbreak sickens 35 in Iowa, Nebraska

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and local public health agencies are investigating a Cyclospora outbreak that has so far sickened 22 people from nine of the state's counties. In a statement today the IDPH said more cases have been detected in Nebraska and other Midwestern states.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS) said in a Jul 5 health advisory to clinicians that Cyclospora infections have been detected in 13 Nebraskans so far.

Most of the Iowa patients got sick in mid to late June, and at least one person has been hospitalized. Some of the patients are still sick, and some have had relapses, the IDPH said.

The agency issued an epidemiologic alert to clinicians about the outbreak on Jul 3, when 7 cases had been detected. So far no common exposure has been found for the Cyclospora, a relatively rare parasite.

In an epidemiologic update today the IDPH said foodborne Cyclospora outbreaks have typically been linked to fresh produce, mostly imported, including raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun lettuce.

The disease causes an unusually lengthy bout of diarrhea that can last as long as 57 days if untreated. The IDPH said a specific treatment (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) is available that isn't typically used for other diarrheal diseases.

It advised clinicians to test patients for Cyclospora if they have diarrhea lasting more than a few days accompanied by anorexia and fatigue. It said a specific lab test is needed to detect the parasite.

In the past 20 years only 10 previous Cyclospora infections have been identified in Iowa.
Jul 8 IDPH statement
Jul 5 NDHHS advisory
Jul 3 IDPH epidemiologic alert
Jul 8 IDPH epidemiologic alert


South Korean death toll from novel tick-borne disease rises to 8

South Korea's death toll from severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS), caused by a novel tick-borne bunyavirus, has reached eight, four more than was reported in early June, according to a Yonhap News Agency report.

The latest victim is a 62-year-old man on the southern resort island of Jeju, who died Jul 4 after weeks of hospitalization, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Five other people have been sickened by the virus, and some of them remain hospitalized, Yonhap reported.

The story did not describe the other patients who have died in the past month. South Korea's first SFTS case was reported in May and involved a 63-year-old woman who died in Seoul in August 2012.

The virus, which has also been reported in parts of China and Japan, can spread from person to person via blood or mucus, according to previous reports. It is carried by Haemaphysalis longicornis ticks.
Jul 5 Yonhap story
Related Jun 3 CIDRAP News item


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