NEWS SCAN: E coli in beef, malaria in Africa, Rift Valley fever epidemic, global polio down

May 13, 2010

CDC E coli report shows role for intact beef safeguards
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today published an analysis of an investigation into a pair of Escherichia coli O157:H7 coli outbreaks in 2008 that were linked to the same beef slaughter facility. The findings, in Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report (MMWR), focus on two outbreaks, probed by a host of federal and state agencies, that sickened at least 99 people in 18 states. Though the CDC doesn't name the beef processor in its analysis today, reports on the outbreaks from 2008 suggest it is Nebraska Beef, Ltd., based in Omaha. A spokeswoman from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had said the outbreaks involved different strains of E coli O157:H7. By Aug 14, 2008, Nebraska Beef had recalled 1.36 million pounds of its ground beef and beef cuts. A USDA investigation of the company's slaughtering facility had found that production practices were inadequate to prevent E coli O157:H7 contamination, and the company implemented measures to correct the gaps, according to today's CDC report. Investigators concluded that, despite E coli detection advances and safety improvements at beef production facilities, outbreaks continue to occur. It said the outbreaks were notable because they involved intact cuts, suggesting more hide contamination safeguards were needed, and that improved processing controls, such as testing programs at firms that process trim from intact cuts, may help reduce E coli contamination.
May 14 MMWR report
Aug 11, 2008, CIDRAP News story
Aug 14, 2008, Nebraska Beef, Ltd., recall

African countries develop malaria policy briefs
Six African countries have published policy briefs on how to improve access to malaria treatment within their borders, marking a significant step in efforts to develop evidence-based health policies, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced. The countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Uganda. "This is a significant achievement because it represents the first time that policy-makers, researchers, and members of civil society in [the six countries] have collaborated with each other to better use scientific evidence to produce health policies," the WHO said. The nations worked with EVIPNet, the Evidence-informed Policy Network, a knowledge-transfer initiative launched in 2005, to develop the policies. EVIPNet teams in the countries used WHO guidelines and national health information to fashion policies that respond to the countries' own needs and resources, the WHO said. The policy briefs, focusing on access to artemisinin-based combination treatments, have been published in the International Journal of Technology Assessment and Health Care.

South Africa's Rift Valley fever epidemic grows
South Africa's Rift Valley fever (RVF) outbreak reached 186 cases with 18 deaths as of May 10, the WHO reported yesterday, citing government information. Cases have occurred in Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, and North West provinces. The WHO also reported that further tests on a German tourist who fell ill after a trip to South Africa showed she has a rickettsial infection, also known as tick fever, not RVF as previously reported. RVF mainly affects animals but can spread to humans through contact with blood or organs of infected animals or through mosquito bites. The WHO is not advising against travel to South Africa, but it said travelers should avoid contact with animal hides or raw meat, refrain from consuming unpasteurized milk, and take precautions against insect bites.
May 12 WHO update on RVF

Global polio cases dropped slightly in 2009
Global polio cases numbered 1,606 in 2009, down slightly from the 1,651 cases reported in 2008 and within the range of cases reported annually since 2005 (1,315 to 1,997), the CDC reported today. Seventy-eight percent of the cases were in the four countries where polio is still endemic (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan). Another 13% of cases occurred in 15 previously polio-free countries after wild polio virus was imported, and 9% were in four countries where transmission was re-established after importation. The CDC said the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is adopting a new strategic plan for 2010-2012 with a goal of interrupting transmission by the end of 2012.
CDC polio report in May 14 MMWR

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