NEWS SCAN: Cholera update, FBI anthrax probe, food recalls, flu viruses and vaccine

Aug 15, 2011

Cholera numbers rise in Haiti, Somalia
Haiti's health ministry said yesterday that the death toll in its cholera epidemic has grown to 5,968 and that the fatality count is rising by about 10 per day, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported today. So far about 420,000 infections have been reported since the outbreak began in October 2010. In other cholera developments, United Nations (UN) agencies are boosting their response to a cholera outbreak in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, that is striking people who have been displaced by drought, famine, and conflict, the UN said in an Aug 12 press release. Cholera outbreaks have occurred in several areas throughout the country, but cases are rising at an alarming rate in Mogadishu, where 181 suspected deaths from the disease have been reported at a single hospital, according to World Health Organization (WHO) sources. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is sending cholera kits to areas with rising numbers of watery diarrhea cases and is scaling up access to water, sanitation, and hygiene in areas of Mogadishu that have high populations of newly arrived displaced people.
Aug 15 DPA story
Aug 12 UN press release

Book offers behind-scenes account of FBI's anthrax investigation
A new book by journalist David Willman of the Los Angeles Times offers the first behind-the-scenes account of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) investigation of the anthrax letter attacks and offers support for the agency's conclusion that scientist Bruce Ivins was the perpetrator, according to a recent review in the Washington Post. Ivins, who worked at the US Army's infectious diseases laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, committed suicide as the Justice Department was preparing to indict him in 2008. The book reveals that the FBI's early pursuit of scientist Stephen Hatfill as a suspect was based largely on the "alerting" behavior of one bloodhound, even though the dog had pointed to the wrong man in a California rape investigation. The book also says that early tips pointing to Ivins were ignored, including a call from Nancy Haigwood, a former Ivins colleague. She told the FBI that Ivins had sent her an e-mail on Sep 21, 2001, 3 days after the first round of anthrax letters would have been mailed, predicting a big terrorist event that would focus attention on Fort Detrick. Haigwood's tip was ignored for 4 years, according to Willman. He also explores Ivins' mental state, revealing that Ivins told friends he thought he had inherited his mother's violent schizophrenia. Also revealed is a case in which Ivins told a psychiatrist that he had once planned to poison a colleague who he felt had spurned him. The book is titled The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War.
Aug 12 Washington Post review

Tests prompt recalls of diced bacon, ground beef, and dip
Federal food safety agencies posted three food recall notices on Aug 12 after routine tests suggested the products may be contaminated, though so far no illnesses have been reported. One involves 380,000 pounds of diced, cooked bacon products from Canada-based Aliments Prince, S.E.C., that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The products were shipped to US distribution centers for further distribution to food service institutions. The second recall involves 60,424 pounds of ground beef produced by National Beef Packing Co., LLC, based in Dodge City, Kan., that may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7. The meat was shipped to distributors for further processing and distribution, according to the USDA. It may have been repackaged for consumers and sold under various brand names. The contamination was found during routine tests by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The third recall notice applies to layer dip products that contain guacamole made by Fresh Food Concepts, Inc., Buena Park, Calif., according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Routine FDA sampling revealed the imported avocado pulp in the products may be contaminated with L monocytogenes. Brand names include Fresh Food Concepts, Delicioso, Rojo's, and Signature Cafe. The products were distributed nationwide and in Canada through retail supermarkets and club stores and have a use-by date of Sep 16. The company has stopped using avocado from the supplier.
Aug 12 USDA diced bacon recall notice
Aug 12 USDA ground beef recall notice
Aug 12 FDA recall notice

EU report says flu virus isolates still well matched to vaccine
The latest technical report on influenza viruses from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based on 250 specimens received from European countries from February to June, shows that although the viruses varied genetically, those that predominate remain quite well matched to the currently recommended vaccine. Specifically, all 2009 H1N1 virus groups represented show antigenic similarity to the A/California/7/2009 vaccine virus, and viruses of the B/Victoria/2/87 lineage remain genetically and antigenically similar to the B/Brisbane/60/2008 vaccine virus. Isolates of influenza A/H3N2 and of the B/Yamagata lineage also continued to be received but neither appeared to fall outside current vaccine coverage.
Aug 12 ECDC news release
July 2011 ECDC technical report

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