NEWS SCAN: Flu in France and Egypt, cholera and crop losses, Salmonella sprout cases, brucellosis standards

Dec 29, 2010

Flu activity increasing in France, Egypt
Influenza in France has reached epidemic levels, with 176,000 cases and 2 deaths this season, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story today. Cases reached 280 per 100,000 population, well past the epidemic threshold of 174 per 100,000. Epidemiologic networks have identified "three viral strains" as causing illness, including 2009 pandemic H1N1. Officials are urging at-risk groups to get vaccinated. In Egypt, pandemic H1N1 has infected 1,172 people and killed 56 since Oct 8, Reuters reported. Overall, since the beginning of the pandemic in that country last June, the virus has infected at least 16,373 people and killed at least 281.
Dec 29 AFP story

FAO: Cholera in Haiti likely to cause crop loss
A "significant portion" of northwestern Haiti's rice harvest will likely be lost over farmers' fears of cholera contamination during the harvest, according to a report today from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The report said that many farmers are avoiding the harvest because they fear that irrigation water from rivers and canals may be contaminated by Vibrio cholerae, the organism that causes cholera. The agency has also received reports of consumers avoiding buying produce from regions affected by the cholera outbreak. The FAO said it is working to give farm workers correct information about precautions to take while working in the fields. November flooding in Haiti not only facilitated cholera spread but also damaged almost 200,000 acres of cropland, according to the report.
Dec 29 FAO report

Salmonella cases linked to tainted sprouts hit 94
Cases of infection by Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- linked to contaminated sprouts have now reached 94 in 16 US states and the District of Columbia, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update yesterday. Cases have increased by 5 and affected states by 1 since the CDC's previous update, on Dec 23. Cases have been linked to Alfalfa Sprouts and Spicy Sprouts—which contain alfalfa sprouts mixed with radish and clover sprouts—from Tiny Greens Organic Farm of Urbana, Ill., and to sprouts served at Jimmy John's restaurants. The sprouts were distributed in 4-oz and 5-lb containers to farmers markets, restaurants, and stores in some Midwestern states, according to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) news release. About half the illnesses occurred in Illinois, according to the FDA, which said, "Jimmy John's has stopped serving sprouts on its sandwiches at all Illinois locations."
Dec 28 CDC update
Dec 27 FDA press release

Regulations for brucellosis control to be less stringent
The US Department of Agriculture has made its testing requirements for brucellosis less stringent, according to a Dec 27 news release from the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). "The brucellosis program has been very successful at reducing the disease in this country," said John Clifford, chief veterinary officer for APHIS, in the release, pointing out that the only known reservoir of brucellosis is around Yellowstone National Park. "These new regulations will help us better address the current situation and continue to move toward our long-term goal of complete eradication," he added. APHIS amendments to brucellosis regulations include less testing to maintain "class free" status for states that have had no cases for 5 years or longer, removal of automatic lowering of a state's status if two ore more herds test positive within 2 years, reduction in the age at which cattle are included in blood tests, and other steps.
Dec 27 APHIS news release

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