NEWS SCAN: H5N1 outbreaks, lab workers cleared, pan flu vaccine, veterinarian shortage, Salmonella update, MRSA in ICUs

Editor's note: The item on the Salmonella outbreak was revised Feb 19 to correct information on case numbers for specific states.

Feb 18, 2009

H5N1 outbreaks in Vietnam, India
Veterinary officials in Vietnam today announced that the H5N1 virus infected ducks in two more provinces, Bac Lieu in the Mekong Delta and Kahnh Hoa in the south-central part of the country, according to Xinhua, China's state news agency. The new outbreaks raise the number of Vietnamese provinces with recent H5N1 outbreaks to nine. Elsewhere, officials in India reported a new H5N1 outbreak in the South Dinjapur district of West Bengal state, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported today.
[Feb 18 Xinhua story]
[Feb 18 IANS story]

Czech lab workers free of H5N1 infection
None of the Czech lab workers who were recently exposed to the H5N1 virus were infected, representatives from BioTest, their employer, said yesterday, according to a report from Ceske Noviny, a news service in the Czech Republic. The employees had been working with ferrets and handled a flu vaccine made by Baxter that had been contaminated with the H5N1 virus.
[Feb 17 Ceske Noviny story]

WHO confirms Vietnamese man's H5N1 illness
The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed Vietnam's latest human H5N1 case, in a 32-year-old man from Ninh Binh province who got sick on Feb 5, was hospitalized on Feb 13, and is in serious condition. A probe into the source of his illness suggests he had recent contact with sick poultry, but officials are continuing their investigation.
[Feb 13 WHO statement]

Novavax reports good results in H5N1 vaccine trial
Novavax Inc. reported favorable results in a phase 1/2a clinical trial of its virus-like particle vaccine against H5N1 influenza. At the highest dose, 90 micrograms, about 64% of volunteers showed strong antibody responses to the vaccine, which is based on a 2005 H5N1 strain from Indonesia, the company reported in a news release.
[Novavax release]

Shortage of veterinarians hampers federal agencies
A shortage of federal veterinarians is hampering government agencies' ability to perform some of their food safety tasks and respond quickly to zoonotic disease outbreaks, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Many agencies haven't met staffing goals over the past several years, and the government faces wage competition from the private sector. However, the Office of Personnel Management on Feb 12 granted federal agencies permission to expedite hiring of more veterinarians, according to a report yesterday by Government Executive.
[Feb 18 GAO report]
[Feb 17 Government Executive story]

CDC counts 642 cases in Salmonella outbreak
The latest count in the Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products is 642 cases in 44 states, plus one case in Canada, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number is six more than in the CDC's last report on Feb 12. Ohio has the most confirmed cases, with 94, followed by California with 76.
[Feb 17 CDC outbreak update]

Some MRSA infections in ICUs decline
The incidence of certain methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in US intensive care units dropped almost 50% from 1997 to 2007, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). CDC researchers analyzed hospital data on bloodstream infections associated with catheters in large blood vessels (central lines) in ICU patients and found that infections caused by MRSA and all other pathogens declined, for reasons that were not immediately clear.
[Full JAMA report]
[News release about study]

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