NEWS SCAN: Listeria outbreak deaths, South Korea's floating toilets, polio in Nigeria, H5N1 in Mongolia

Sep 12, 2012

Three deaths reported in multistate Listeria outbreak
Three fatalities are among the 14 cases that have been identified so far in a multistate Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to imported Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced yesterday. Listeriosis contributed to at least one of the deaths. All 14 patients sickened in the outbreak were hospitalized. Four cases were related to pregnancy, with two of the infections reported in newborns; the CDC said no babies have died in the outbreak. Illness onset dates range from Mar 28 to Aug 30. Epidemiologic investigations revealed that 12 of the 14 patients reported eating soft cheese that had been cut and repackaged at a retail location. A variety of cheeses consumed by the patients suggested cross-contamination of other cheeses, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing found the outbreak strain in a sample of uncut Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese, which was recalled by its distributor, Forever Cheese, Inc., on Sep 10. Investigations are under way in several states to determine the source of contamination. Maryland, with three cases, is the only state to report more than one. The deaths were in Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York.
Sep 11 CDC outbreak announcement

South Korea floats toilet innovation to help clean up shellfish farms
In response to a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on South Korean shellfish, the Asian country is spending almost $600,000 on 11 floating toilets to help keep human waste out of shellfish farms, Medical Xpress reported today. The toilets, which sit on pontoons and are to be used by the crews of small fishing vessels that work the farms, cost $53,300 each, and contain state-of-the-art purification systems. The first of the toilets appeared yesterday off the southern port city of Tongyeong as part of a project by South Gyeongsang province. "This project underlines our efforts to stop pollution from human fecal waste," a provincial official said. The province is also setting up fixed toilets at all 103 fish and seafood farms along its southern coast, the story said. In June the FDA urged US restaurants and food outlets to stop selling fresh, frozen, and canned oysters, clams, and mussels from South Korea. The agency is slated to inspect the area in October. Canada and Taiwan have also banned South Korean oysters.
Sep 12 Medical Xpress article

Official says polio elimination in Nigeria not near
A World Health Organization (WHO) official said yesterday that Nigeria is not on track to eliminate wild poliovirus in 2012, according to AllAfrica News. Bruce Aylward, MD, MPH, WHO assistant director-general of polio, emergencies and country collaboration, said at a meeting in Abuja that increasing polio cases in Nigeria are a "real and growing danger to international public health." Aylward said during the 24th session of the Expert Review Committee Meeting on Polio Eradication that Nigeria is the only country in the world that has had infections with polio type 1 and type 2 in the last 3 months and the only one with increasing cases. He recommended eight steps for polio eradication, including implementing the new house-based micro planning and monitoring method for immunization, addressing chronic gaps in surveillance, optimizing emergency surge, identifying chronically missed children, and establishing true emergency oversight.
Sep 11 AllAfrica News story

Mongolia surveillance suggests wild birds carry H5N1, but not for long
Occasional evidence of H5N1 avian influenza in wild birds in Mongolia suggests that they can carry the virus for considerable distances, but the sporadic nature of outbreaks indicates that wild birds do not serve as long-term reservoirs for it, according to a study in PLoS One. The findings come from surveillance of wild birds in Mongolia—which has almost no domestic birds—from 2005 through 2011. Eight outbreaks were detected through active and passive surveillance during the 7 years. No highly pathogenic (HPAIV) H5N1 viruses were isolated from 7,855 environmental fecal samples or from 2,765 live, clinically healthy birds, but four H5N1 isolates were isolated from 141 clinically ill or dead birds found during active surveillance. All the detections occurred in 2005 and 2006 (clade 2.2) or 2009 and 2010 (clade—all years in which spring H5N1 outbreaks were reported in Tibet and/or Qinghai provinces of China. "The occurrence of outbreaks in areas deficient in domestic poultry is strong evidence that wild birds can carry HPAIV over at least moderate distances," the report says. "However, failure to detect further outbreaks of clade 2.2 after June 2006, and clade after June 2010 suggests that wild birds migrating to and from Mongolia may not be competent as indefinite reservoirs of HPAIV, or that HPAIV did not reach susceptible populations during our study."
Sep 11 PLoS One study

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