NEWS SCAN: H1N1 in transplant patients, raw-milk outbreak, flu antibody, free flu shots in Nova Scotia

Jul 9, 2010

Early antiviral treatment helps transplant patients with pandemic flu
A study of organ transplant patients who were treated for pandemic H1N1 influenza indicated that those who received early antiviral treatment were less likely to require intensive care than those for whom treatment was delayed, according to a report in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Investigators from 26 transplant centers, most of them in the United States, identified 237 transplant patients who were treated for pandemic flu between April and December of 2009. Of 230 patients for whom data on complications were available, 73 (32%) had pneumonia, 37 (16%) were admitted to ICUs, and 10 (4%) died. Of 35 ICU patients with available data, 7 (20%) received antiviral treatment within 48 hours of illness onset, and 28 (80%) received delayed treatment. "Starting antiviral treatment early is associated with clinical benefit as measured by need for ICU admission and mechanical ventilation," the authors write.
Jul 9 Lancet Infect Dis report

Raw-milk outbreak grows as lab confirms pathogens in product
In the investigation of an illness outbreak linked to raw milk from a Longmont, Colo., goat farm, Boulder County officials said yesterday that the number of related illnesses has grown from 16 to 30, including a second child who was hospitalized after drinking unpasteurized goat milk. The first child was hospitalized on Jun 27 and has not been released. A statement from Boulder County Public Health also said the state's public health lab has identified Campylobacter and Escherichia coli O157 from samples taken from the goat farm. It said genetic fingerprints from the two pathogens match the strains found in the sick patients. The dairy operates a goat-share program in which customers buy a share of a goat and receive raw milk in return. Sale of raw milk is illegal in Colorado, though distribution through goat-share programs is permitted.
Jul 8 Boulder County Public Health press release

More potentially contaminated food products
In other food safety developments, federal agencies recently issued four recall notices for potentially contaminated products, though no illnesses have been reported. The products and pathogens found in random sample testing include 37,318 lb of California and chile Nuevo Mexico peppers from Miravalle Foods, Inc.(Salmonella); 992 cases of Senor Mexicano avocado pulp from J. Hellman Frozen Foods, Inc. (Listeria monocytogenes); 17.5 pounds of cooked, sliced turkey breast from K. Heeps, Inc. (L monocytogenes); and 702 cases of fresh baby spinach from Ready Pac Foods, Inc. (E coli O157:H7).
Jul 8 FDA pepper recall notice
Jul 8 FDA avocado pulp recall notice
Jul 7 USDA press recall notice
Jul 7 FDA fresh spinach recall notice

Another human antibody cited as potential broad defense against flu
US researchers report that a human monoclonal antibody derived from a survivor of H5N1 avian influenza shows broad activity against several different flu viruses. In a report released today by PLoS Pathogens, the researchers write that the antibody, called A06, is effective against the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus in cell culture and also protects mice when given before and after lethal infection with the virus. Previous research showed that the antibody neutralizes H5N1 and seasonal H1N1 viruses. The investigators believe that the antibody targets a conserved region of the hemagglutinin protein, according to a press release from Sea Lane Biotechnologies, Menlo Park, Calif., which was involved in the study. The authors say their study supports "the general approach of using antibodies against viral pathogens as opposed to traditional treatments that are losing their efficacy for the prevention and treatment of influenza infection." The research team included members from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., as well as from Sea Lane Biotechnologies.
Jul 8 PLoS Pathogens report
Jul 8 Sea Lane Biotechnologies press release

Nova Scotia announces free flu shots for all this fall
Nova Scotia's health minister yesterday announced that the seasonal flu vaccine this fall will be available free to everyone. Maureen MacDonald, minister of health promotion and protection, said in a statement that officials want all residents to have easy access to the vaccine because it contains the pandemic H1N1 strain, which they expects to be one of the main circulating strains over the winter. Previously, publicly funded seasonal flu vaccines in Nova Scotia were available only to risk groups such as people older than 65, children aged 6 to 23 months, pregnant women, healthcare workers, and first responders. The province's flu vaccine program usually begins in October, and the flu season runs from November to April.
Jul 8 Nova Scotia Health Promotion and Protection news release

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