NEWS SCAN: E coli update, norovirus on a plane, new food-safety tool, global flu, chikungunya vaccine

Aug 12, 2011

Cases rise in E coli strawberry outbreak; more Michigan ground beef recalled
Two new cases of Escherichia coli infection possibly linked to the Oregon outbreak tied to strawberries were reported yesterday by the Clatsop County Public Health Department (CCPHD), which would bring the outbreak total to 18. In a release, county officials said, "At least one of the people is known to have eaten strawberries traced to Jaquith Strawberry Farms, the source of the tainted berries. Specimens from the two people have been sent to a laboratory for confirmation." Neither required hospitalization. All Oregon cases have been in Clatsop, Washington, and Multnomah counties. Also yesterday, Oregon Public Health (OPH) officials said they have confirmed the outbreak strain of E coli O157:H7 in strawberries that were grown last month on a Jaquith farm in Newberg.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced yesterday that McNees Meats and Wholesale LLC., of North Branch, Mich., has expanded its recall of ground beef linked to an E coli O157:H7 outbreak to 2,020 pounds, up from 360 pounds recalled on Aug 9. In addition to the original 10-pound packages recalled earlier, the expanded recall includes 1-pound clear packages labeled "McNees Ground Beef Bulk," 1- to 1.5-pound clear plastic bags labeled "McNees Ground Beef Bulk," 1-pound packages of "McNees Ground Round," and 1- and 2-pound red-and-white packages of "McNees Ground Beef Bulk." Each bears the establishment number "EST. 33971" within the USDA mark of inspection. The meat has been linked to five confirmed and four suspected E coli illnesses.
Aug 11 FSIS release
Finally, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced a recall on Aug 10 of grain-fed veal liver products produced by White Veal Meat Packers Ltd. of Toronto. The CFIA recall alert did not specify the total amount of recalled product, which includes vacuum-packed and poly-packed veal sold in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. The FSIS said, "There have been reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product" but did not offer further details.
Aug 10 CFIA recall alert

Norovirus on an airliner may infect successive crews
After an airline passenger vomited on a plane, almost half of flight attendants who subsequently worked on the same plane developed gastrointestinal symptoms, and two who submitted stool samples were infected with norovirus, according to a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Researchers analyzed data from nine flights over 6 days of a Boeing 777-200 after a passenger vomited on the plane and flight attendants subsequently began getting sick. Eight of the flights were international legs that lasted longer than 10 hours. Of the 77 attendants who worked those flights, 63 provided information, and, of those, 27 (43%) met the case definition for gastroenteritis. The attack rate rose to 79% for crew supervisors and declined over time. Two patients who worked different flights provided stool samples, both of which tested positive for norovirus. The authors write, "Findings from our investigation suggest that flight attendants were infected through their work on the airplane, with transmission recurring over multiple flight sectors." They point out that all the sick attendants developed norovirus-like symptoms within the virus's incubation period, and that the two positive samples were genetic matches and were from employees who worked flights 45 hours apart. They conclude, "Airlines should make provision for adequate disinfection of airplanes with use of products effective against norovirus and other common infectious agents after vomiting has occurred."
Aug 11 Clin Infect Dis abstract
Aug 10 Clin Infect Dis editorial on the study

FDA releases food-safety software for food employees
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released software to help train food employees on proper hygiene to reduce foodborne diseases, according to an FDA news release. Called the "Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Interactive Resource Disk," the software includes an interactive tool to help managers of food services and retail food stores make correct decisions to prevent sick employees from handling food. It also contains several FDA documents, such as the 2009 FDA Food Code, an Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook, a recording on taking employee health and hygiene steps, and education and training materials in multiple languages on employee health and hygiene. It will be available on the Web site beginning Aug 19.
Aug 12 FDA news release

WHO: Global flu activity mostly quiet
Confirmed influenza cases steadily increased in Australia in the last 2 weeks of July, but the flu picture was generally quiet in the rest of the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a global flu update today. The 2009 H1N1 virus and influenza B were co-circulating in most of Australia. Flu declined in South Africa, which passed the peak of its season earlier, the WHO said. In South America, low levels of 2009 H1N1 and H3N2 cases were reported in Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil, while 2009 H1N1 cases increased but stayed within expected seasonal levels in Chile and Uruguay. Low activity and variable detection of all three flu subtypes were reported in Central America and the Caribbean. Flu activity remained at a very low level throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the WHO said, which matched today's weekly flu update from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National flu centers from 52 countries reported a total of 1,009 flu detections, of which 67.9% were type A and 32.1% were type B. Of the type A viruses that were subtyped, 51.8% were 2009 H1N1 and 48% were H3N2.
Aug 12 WHO flu update
Aug 12 CDC flu update

Chikungunya vaccine shows promise in animal trial
Researchers have developed a recombinant live-attenuated—or weakened-virus—candidate vaccine against chikungunya that proved immunogenic after a single dose in mice. The results offer promise in the first step of a long process toward an approved vaccine in humans, and the National Institutes of Health is providing the group a $3 million grant to complete preclinical trials. Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease that has stricken millions of people in India, Southeast Asia, and Africa, causing intense pain and an often chronic arthritic disease. "Currently, we have no approved treatment or vaccine for chikungunya, and there's a real need for an effective vaccine to protect against this debilitating and economically devastating infection," said Scott Weaver, lead author and director of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston's (UTMB's) Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, in a press release today. UTMB is partnering with vaccine manufacturer Inviragen, Inc., of Ft. Collins, Colo., on the candidate vaccine.
Aug 12 UTMB press release
Jul 28 PLoS Pathog study

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