News Scan for Jan 25, 2016

News brief

Canada links 7-case Listeria outbreak to Dole salads

Over the weekend the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) linked Canada's multiprovince outbreak of listeriosis to salads from a Dole production plant in Springfield, Ohio, that on Jan 22 was implicated in a 12-case US outbreak, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued its own recall.

In a Jan 23 update, PHAC said it "is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Food and Drug Administration to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to Dole packaged salad products produced from a US processing facility in Springfield, Ohio."

The Canadian outbreak involves 7 cases in five provinces, with 3 in Ontario and 1 each in Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The patients' average age is 81. All were hospitalized, and one death was reported, but it has yet to be determined if the Listeria infection is the cause.
Jan 23 PHAC update
Jan 22 CFIA recall notice
Jan 22 CIDRAP News scan on US outbreak and recall


Report cites multiple failings in UK response to Ebola outbreak

The UK response to the Ebola outbreak met with delays and confusion on many fronts, including government steps, public health response, research priorities, and airport screening decisions, according to a parliamentary report today from the Science & Technology Committee.

Committee Chair Nicola Blackwood, MP (member of parliament), said in a UK Parliament press release, "Scientists, health workers and agencies did a heroic job working around the clock to confront the Ebola outbreak, sometimes at risk to their own lives. But the UK response to Ebola—like the international one—was undermined by systematic delay.

"We must take the opportunity now to ensure that the UK is not caught unprepared when the next disease emergency strikes. Lives can be lost for every day of delay."

Systemic delays included a lag in acting on Public Health England's disease surveillance data and a failure to convene a UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) until October 2014, 3 months after the government's emergency response committee met. The MPs recommended that in the future the country's chief scientist trigger the formation of a SAGE.

Regarding research priorities, MP Nicola Blackwood said, "Universities, regulatory bodies and pharmaceutical companies launched clinical trials for Ebola vaccines and treatments in record time. These efforts are to be commended, but it is also clear that the capacity to conduct research during an outbreak was not embedded in the UK’s emergency response."

The report also noted, "The UK's stance on implementing screening at airports changed over the course of three days during the height of the Ebola outbreak and ultimately went against guidance from the World Health Organisation and Public Health England."
Jan 25 UK Parliament report
Jan 25 UK Parliament news release


Gates, UK announce $4.3 billion effort to combat malaria

US philanthropist Bill Gates and Britain's finance minister today unveiled a $4.3 billion effort to eradicate malaria, Agence France-Presse reported.

Gates and Chancellor George Osborne announced a $200 million commitment per year from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and more than $700 million a year from the UK overseas aid budget for 5 years for research and other elimination efforts.

"When it comes to human tragedy, no creature comes close to the devastation caused by the mosquito," the two wrote. They added, however, "We are optimistic that in our lifetimes we can eradicate malaria and other deadly tropical diseases, and confront emerging threats, making the world a safer place for all."

The pair said that battling diseases like malaria requires collaboration among industry, governments, and charities and emphasized the need for new tools. "If new insecticides are not introduced by 2020, the situation will become critical and deaths could surge," they wrote.

The Geneva-based Global Fund welcomed the news. "Every child who stays alive, every stillbirth prevented, and every pregnant woman who is protected as a result of this investment represents new hope and expanded opportunity for families and communities," said Global Fund Executive Director Mark Dybul in a Global Fund news release.
Jan 25 AFP story
Jan 25 Global Fund press release

Flu Scan for Jan 25, 2016

News brief

USDA clarifies flock reimbursement, vaccine steps for avian flu in poultry

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Jan 22 updated its highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) fall plan, fine-tuning details about reimbursing farmers for lost poultry and finalizing its vaccination policy should that step be enacted.

The original fall plan was released in September 2015 after multiple HPAI outbreaks decimated flocks in some states in the spring and summer.

Newly decided flat rates for affected birds are $3.55 per turkey, $6.45 per egg-laying hen, and $1.15 per broiler chicken, the USDA said in an announcement. The flat rates cover the cost of barn preparation, dry cleaning, and heat disinfection after an outbreak.

The finalized vaccination plan clarifies that the USDA will buy vaccine for poultry if it is warranted but will not foot the bill for administering the vaccine. It also notes that certain birds might be exempt from vaccination, such as short-lived broilers and ducks. Finally, it details surveillance testing for layer flocks.

The updated plan also includes a survey on industry preparedness. "The survey found that the poultry industry has made important efforts in implementing preparedness and response capabilities for future HPAI cases," the agency said. The USDA added, though, that it is recommending some additional actions, such as increasing the use of ID cards to enhance farm biosecurity.
Jan 22 USDA announcement


Nigeria reports 11 new H5N1 avian flu outbreak in poultry

Nigerian veterinary officials have reported another 11 H5N1 avian flu outbreaks involving more than 41,000 farm poultry, the latest to hit a country ravaged by the disease in recent months, according to a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) report today.

The farms are in the northern and central states of Kano, Kaduna, and Plateau, as well as in Kuje in the Federal Capital Territory, about 25 miles southwest of Abuja, the national capital. They began from Jan 18 to Jan 21.

Flocks range in size from 800 to 9,150 and include chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, and guinea fowl. All told 3,598 of 41,183 birds died from viral infection, and the rest were culled to prevent disease spread. Poor farm biosecurity is mentioned as a factor in the outbreaks.

On Jan 19 Nigerian veterinary officials reported 22 H5N1 outbreaks to the OIE that involved more than 96,000 birds.
Jan 25 OIE report


WHO says Mideast still global flu hotspot

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a new update that the Middle East continues to see high levels of flu activity, while some other global regions are seeing a steady rise.

The update, which is dated Jan 11 but posted yesterday, said that the 2009 H1N1 virus, especially, is causing high flu activity in Israel, Jordan, and Oman, while Iran and Pakistan are experiencing elevated levels. Bahrain and Qatar, on the other hand, are experiencing a decline.

Most other global regions are reporting low flu activity, the WHO said, but Mongolia, Laos, Thailand, and some countries in northern and eastern Europe and northern Africa are seeing an increase. The report does not mention North America, but the United States on Jan 22 reported a slight uptick in flu activity.

From mid to late December, national labs reported that influenza A is outpacing influenza B 89% to 11%, with 2009 H1N1 accounting for 93% of subtyped "A" strains, the WHO noted.
Jan 11 WHO update

This week's top reads