News Scan for Jul 30, 2013

Colombia ousts river blindness
;
Vaccine-derived polio in India
;
Danish Salmonella trends

Colombia lauded as first country to eliminate river blindness

After 16 years of efforts, Colombia has become the first country in the world to eliminate the parasitic disease onchocerciasis, or river blindness, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced yesterday.

PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne, MBBS, called Colombia’s achievement "an example of commitment, persistence, and integrated work" and said the Americas Region has shown leadership in fighting river blindness and other neglected infectious diseases, according to a PAHO press release. She called for "redoubling efforts to eliminate the disease" in five other countries in the Americas: Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Onchocerciasis is the second leading infectious cause of blindness and also causes skin rashes and lesions, PAHO noted. It is caused by the parasite Onchocerca volvulus and spreads from person to person through the bite of Simulium black flies, which are common in river areas.

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 25 million people have onchocerciasis and 123 million live in areas where the risk exists, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 99% of infected people live in Africa, with the rest in Yemen and the Americas.

The last focus area for the disease in Colombia was the small community of Naiciona in the Department of Cauca, where the antiparasitic drug ivermectin, donated by Merck, was dispensed to the population twice a year for 12 years, PAHO said. Transmission of the disease was interrupted in 2007, and an international team visited the area in 2012 and confirmed its elimination.

Colombia's achievement was announced yesterday at a meeting in Bogota, PAHO said.
Jul 29 PAHO press release

 

Fourth case of vaccine-derived polio in India this year

A 9-month-old boy from Navi Mumbai has become the fourth person in India to be infected with vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) type 2 this year, reports a story in The Hindu newspaper. Last year brought just one case.

The child was brought to Mumbai at the age of 2 months with paralysis and received oral polio vaccine five times since then, says the report. An article in the Mumbai Mirror reports that the child was suspected of having Guillain-Barre syndrome but recently tested positive for VDPV.

Dr. Satish Pawar of the Directorate of Health Services is quoted in The Hindu story as saying the boy may be immunocompromised. "In normal children, the polio virus in the intestines completely dies after 200-300 rounds of replication. But in this child's case, due to low immunity, the virus seems to have become virulent, resulting in polio," he said.

The area where the child lives has 95% polio vaccination coverage, according to the story, and a vaccination drive is under way to reach those who have not been vaccinated. In addition, the sewage system and other sanitary conditions in the area are being checked.

India achieved official polio-free status in 2012 after going for a year with no cases of wild poliovirus infection.
Jul 29 article in The Hindu
Jul 30 article in the Mumbai Mirror

 

Danish officials see spike in beef-linked Salmonella infections

Although Salmonella infection levels were near record lows in Denmark in 2012, the number of infections linked to Danish beef showed a large increase, according to a recent report from the Danish Zoonosis Center, the Statens Serum Institut, and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

Of 1,198 Salmonella infections last year, 45% were contracted during foreign travel, especially to Egypt, Thailand, and Turkey, according to a press release from the Technical University of Denmark. Eleven Salmonella outbreaks were reported, including two linked to Danish beef, one to Danish pork, and one to imported duck. The report said domestic pork was the most important source of Salmonella, as it was in 2011.

Anne Wingstrand, a senior researcher at the university's National Food Institute, said the number of Salmonella infections linked to beef is unusual and was related to the outbreaks and an increase in the number of sporadic infections.

No Salmonella cases were traced to Danish chicken last year, according to the release. A law passed in 2008 requires fresh broiler meat to be Salmonella-free when sold.
Jul 29 Technical University press release via EurekAlert

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