NEWS SCAN: E coli in lettuce, ruling on animal antibiotics, FMD in Egypt, meningitis in Africa

Mar 23, 2012

CDC declares outbreak of E coli from romaine lettuce over
An outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 that began in October of 2011 has been declared officially over by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency said in an update today. The total number of cases as of Mar 21 was 58 from nine states—Arizona (1), Arkansas (2), Illinois (9), Indiana (2), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Minnesota (2), Missouri (38), and Nebraska (1). The previously reported total of 60 was reduced when two cases were found through molecular testing to be unrelated to the outbreak strain. The source of the contamination was not determined, but traceback suggested the farm that grew or the company that distributed a common lot of romaine lettuce to nine locations of a grocery store chain for use in their salad bars. No deaths occurred among the infected patients, but 33 (57%) were hospitalized and 3 (5%) developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious kidney disorder.
Mar 23 CDC final update
Dec 7, 2011, CIDRAP News story on the outbreak

Judge: FDA must restart steps to ban growth-promoting use of antibiotics in animals
A federal magistrate judge yesterday ordered the US Food and Drug Administration to inform drug makers that it may ban the growth-promoting use of certain antibiotics in farm animals because such use may increase the spread of antimcrobial resistant bacteria, the New York Times reported today. The order has the effect of restarting a process the FDA began 35 years ago with the aim of stopping the widespread use of penicillin and tetracycline in food animals. The agency retreated in the face of congressional opposition at that time. Since then the FDA has used a mostly voluntary strategy to try to discourage non-treatment uses of antibiotics in food animals. But now, the story said, the FDA is expected to issue draft rules "within days" to ban use of the two antibiotics in animal feed to promote growth. Yesterday's ruling by Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York came in a lawsuit filed in January by several groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In the ruling, Katz said the drug makers can request a hearing to present evidence that growth-promotion uses of the drugs are safe, and if the evidence is sound, the drugs can continue to be used as they are now, according to the report. Jen Sorenson, a lawyer for the NRDC, told the Times, "Thanks to the court's order, drug manufacturers will finally have to do what FDA should have made them do 35 years ago: prove that their drugs are safe for human health, or take them off the market."
Mar 23 Times story
Dec 11, 2011, CIDRAP News item on limiting antibiotic use

FAO: Urgent action needed against foot-and-mouth disease in Egypt
An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Egypt reported earlier this week by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) is now termed major and requires urgent action, according to a notice yesterday from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Suspected cases have now reached an estimated 40,222, with 4,658 deaths, most of them in calves. At risk are 6.3 buffalo and cattle and 7.5 million sheep and goats in Egypt. The Lower Nile Delta area is most affected, but there is concern about the disease's potential to spread through North Africa and the Middle East. The strain implicated is known as SAT2 and is new, meaning animals have no immunity. An FAO emergency team is in the country, and the strategy for containment includes implementation of such biosecurity measures as limiting animal movements, avoiding animal contact between farms, stalling the purchase of new animals, and proper disposal of carcasses, as well as vaccination where possible. Vaccines are in limited supply, however, and existing reserves do not cover the SAT2 strain.
Mar 22 FAO notice
Mar 19 OIE report

Alert: Hundreds dead this year in Africa's 'meningitis belt'
Early 2012 has seen significant outbreaks of meningococcal disease in five African countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an alert today. Suspected cases and deaths from Jan 1 through Mar 11 have been reported in Benin (381/38), Burkina Faso (1,966/212), Chad (1,043/67), Ivory Coast (281/39), and Ghana (369/37), for a total of 4,040 cases and 393 deaths. These countries are all within Africa's "meningitis belt," a group of 14 countries with enhanced surveillance for the disease. The main cause of the recent outbreaks is the W135 serogroup of Neisseria meningitidis, but N meningitidis A has been the predominant pathogen in Chad. The supply of vaccines against N meningitidis W135 is limited. The affected countries are responding with increased surveillance, reinforced treatment of patients, and mass vaccination campaigns. In total this year, 6,685 suspected cases with 639 deaths have been reported from the meningitis belt.
Mar 23 WHO alert

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