NEWS SCAN: Avian flu, pandemic guidance for cargo haulers, receipts track E coli , cholera outbreak, oysters and norovirus

Mar 23, 2009

WHO confirms Egypt's latest H5N1 case
The World Health Organization(WHO) today confirmed H5N1 avian influenza in a 38-year-old Egyptian woman from Asyut governorate who is in stable condition. She got sick on Mar 14 after having had close contact with sick and dead poultry, was admitted to the hospital the same day, and received oseltamivir (Tamiflu). The WHO's confirmation pushes the number of H5N1 cases in Egypt to 59, of which 23 were fatal, and the global tally increases to 412 cases and 256 deaths.
[Mar 23 WHO statement]

Avian flu findings from Egypt, France
Egypt recently reported four more H5N1 avian flu outbreaks in poultry, according to Egypt-based Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR)—two in Gharbiya governorate and two in Beheira governorate. All of them involved mixed species of backyard birds for which the vaccination status was not known. Meanwhile, animal health officials in France reported two avian flu outbreaks in decoy ducks, one in Calvados that involved a low-pathogenic H5N1 virus and the other in Pas-de-Calais that involved an H5 virus, but not the N1 component. Surveillance was increased at the two sites, but other controls have not been implemented, according to a report from the United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Feds issue pandemic guidance for cargo transport crews
In a move to protect cargo trucking crews—a critical part of the nation's infrastructure—during an influenza pandemic, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued interim guidance on limiting exposure to a pandemic virus. The guidance primarily contains standard infection control practices, but touches on cargo work specifics such as avoiding face-to-face contacts during pick-ups and deliveries and encouraging employees to instead use text messaging and cell phones to communicate. The document also includes recommendations on disinfecting truck cabs and trailers.
[HHS interim pandemic influenza guidance for cargo trucking crews]

Receipts solve Danish E coli outbreak mystery
Credit card receipts helped Danish public health officials track down the elusive source of an Escherichia coli O26 outbreak that sickened at least 20 children in 2007, according to a report in the current issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases. The receipts led the officials to supermarket databases, which listed all items the affected families bought. Six of the families had bought a certain brand of fermented, organic beef sausage. Unopened packages of the sausages tested positive for the outbreak strain, which had not previously been linked to any foodborne illness outbreaks.
[Apr 15 Clin Infect Dis report]

Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak slows
A cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe that has sickened more than 91,000 people and killed 4,037 since August 2008 is slowing, the WHO reported today. Public health officials are seeing case numbers and fatality rates decrease in all provinces, except for around the capital, Harare, where illness numbers are increasing. The risk of outbreaks restarting is real without continued vigilance and reinforced control measures that are in place, the WHO said.
[Mar 23 WHO statement]

FDA issues oyster norovirus alert
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned against selling and eating oysters that were harvested near a certain growing area in the Gulf of Mexico near Pass Christian, Miss., while it investigates a norovirus outbreak associated with oysters from the area. Eleven people got sick with norovirus infections after eating raw oysters at a Chattanooga, Tenn., restaurant. Mississippi officials closed the harvesting area on Mar 17 to investigate potential contamination sources, and the FDA is testing oysters from the area.
[Mar 21 FDA statement]

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