NEWS SCAN: Avian flu in Manitoba, flu vaccine acceptance, WHO flu update, cholera vaccine stockpile, Listeria cheese recall, cell-based flu vaccine

Nov 24, 2010

Avian influenza strikes Manitoba poultry farm
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) today said avian influenza has been detected on a commercial poultry farm in Rockwood, Manitoba. Rockwood is in south central Manitoba, about 100 miles from the Minnesota border. Clinical and initial lab tests suggest that the virus is likely a low-pathogenic strain, but further tests are under way to determine the subtype and pathogenicity, the CFIA said in a press release. The farm produces turkeys, Dr Wayne Lees, Manitoba's chief veterinarian, told Reuters today. The province's public health officer, Dr Joel Kettner, told the news service that no evidence of related human infections has been found. The CFIA said the farm has been quarantined and the birds will be culled, followed by cleaning and disinfection of the barn, vehicles, equipment, and tools. Officials are investigating the source of the outbreak. Dr Sandra Stevens, a CFIA veterinary program specialist, told Reuters that the strain found on the farm may be similar to one that struck a British Columbia farm last year and led to the culling of several thousand turkeys and chickens.
Nov 24 CFIA press release
Nov 24 Reuters story

Experts: Getting yearly flu shot will help with pandemic preparedness
Three Rand Corporation flu researchers wrote today that one of the lessons learned from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was that getting people to accept a novel flu vaccine can be difficult, but that problem might be addressed by raising the number of people who get an annual flu shot. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), they pointed out that, even at the height of the pandemic, polls showed that less than half of people were willing to get vaccinated against novel H1N1. The authors' proposed strategy for combating this tendency is to improve seasonal vaccine uptake. "Data collected during the early stages of the pandemic showed that the intention to be vaccinated against H1N1 was strongly associated with past uptake of seasonal vaccine," they wrote. In addition, they said, when H1N1 vaccine became widely available, regular recipients of seasonal flu vaccine were almost four times as likely to get vaccinated against pandemic H1N1 as irregular users or nonusers. They also noted that expediting vaccine production and delivery needs to be addressed, as well.
Nov 24 NEJM perspective

WHO notes few flu hot spots
The World Health Organization (WHO) said flu activity is still low in most parts of the world, but a few areas, such as Argentina, are showing increasing activity, according to a Nov 22 update. Rising late-season flu levels in Argentina are mainly occurring in the country's northwestern provinces. Colombia and Bolivia have recently reported low-to-moderate H3N2 and 2009 H1N1 virus activity. In the tropics, Southeast Asian countries are still reporting flu virus circulation, and Sri Lanka recently reported increasing activity. In Africa, Cameroon is reporting significant levels of H3N2 and influenza B viruses, and Togo recently reported a few 2009 H1N1 detections. The WHO report acknowledged the two recent triple-reassortant swine-origin H3N2 virus infections in the United States and the isolated H5N1 avian influenza case in Hong Kong. On a global level, an analysis of flu viruses tested through Nov 6 found that about 77% were influenza A and about 22% were influenza B. Of the influenza A viruses subtyped, 75% were seasonal H3N2. China was the only country reporting the seasonal H1N1 virus.
Nov 22 WHO global flu update

Scientists call for US cholera vaccine stockpile
Citing an estimated 3 million to 5 million cholera cases and 100,000 to 130,000 deaths worldwide each year, infectious disease and vaccine experts writing in another NEJM essay today called for the United States to build a cholera vaccine stockpile, both for public health and politic reasons. The stockpile would be used for combating the disease in areas at high risk, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, as well as in countries like Haiti, which is facing a potentially catastrophic cholera re-emergence. The authors, from Harvard, George Washington University, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and the International Vaccine Institute, said the cost would be low, citing a figure of under $2 per dose for one of the three most widely used oral vaccines. In addition to the "obvious health and humanitarian benefits" of the stockpile, the experts wrote that a "goodwill argument" could be made in favor of stockpiling. They said that, for example, the vaccine stockpile could help ease tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola.
Nov 24 NEJM perspective

Listera finding prompts widening of cheese recall
Bravo Farms, the California company that recalled its Gouda cheese because of Escherichia coli O157:H7 contamination, yesterday announced it has expanded its recall to include all of its cheese after an investigation at the plant turned up Listeria monocytogenes as well as E coli. No Listeria illnesses have been linked to Bravo Farms cheeses, which are sold at retail locations primarily on the West Coast. Varieties subject to the expanded recall include pepper jack, Tulare Cannonball, and several types of cheddar. The pathogens at the plant were detected by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The company recalled its Gouda on Nov 8 after investigations in a handful of western states linked E coli infections to the Bravo Farms cheese, which was sampled and sold at some Costco stores. So far 37 illnesses have been connected to the outbreak, and the outbreak strain has been found in opened and unopened packages of Bravo Farms Gouda.
Nov 23 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recall notice

FDA clears way for trial of flu vaccine derived from duck cells
The French biopharmaceutical company Vivalis announced today that the FDA has cleared the way for a phase 1 clinical trial of the company's experimental influenza vaccine derived from duck stem cells. The FDA has approved an investigational new drug application (IND) for the vaccine, which is produced in Vivalis's EB66 cell line, the firm said in a news release. The planned phase 1 trial will be the first human trial of a clinical product produced with the EB66 cell line and the first trial of a vaccine produced using an avian cell line, the statement said. Vivalis is collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline in developing the vaccine. No cell-based flu vaccine has yet been licensed in the United States, though such products have been approved in the European Union.
Nov 24 Vivalis press release

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