NEWS SCAN: Hong Kong H5N1 update, Reportable Food Registry add-ons, Vietnam illness probe, measles in Israel

Jun 5, 2012

H5N1 virus in Hong Kong boy matches previous isolates
Health officials said the H5N1 virus that infected a 2-year-old boy hospitalized in Hong Kong matches a strain that has been found in wild birds and a previous human case in the region. Tests by the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) "showed that the H5 gene of the isolate belonged to clade, which is the same clade as the isolates from wild birds detected in 2011 and 2012 and in the imported human infection case in late 2010," the CHP said in a statement yesterday. "So far all the genes characterised belong to avian origin and there is no evidence of resistance to the antiviral agent oseltamivir (Tamiflu)." Guan Yi, PhD, a virologist from the University of Hong Kong, said the strain has also been seen in mainland China, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe, according to a report today in The Standard newspaper. The boy, who is from Guangzhou, capital of China's Guangdong province, remained in serious condition in the pediatric intensive care unit at Princess Margaret Hospital, the CHP said. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted the boy's case in a statement today, saying it appears to be a sporadic one with no secondary spread or clustering. The WHO also said Hong Kong has had 22 human H5N1 cases, including 18 in 1997, 2 in 2003, 1 in 2010, and the current one. Global WHO-confirmed H5N1 cases now total 605, including 357 deaths.
Jun 4 CHP statement
Jun 5 Standard story
Jun 5 WHO statement
Jun 5 WHO global H5N1 case count

FDA seeks more data for Reportable Food Registry
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition yesterday announced it is enhancing its Reportable Food Registry with 14 new questions designed to improve the tool's ability to track contamination in and focus inspection of human food and animal feed, including pet food. The Reportable Food Registry is an electronic portal that was launched in 2009 to prevent foodborne illnesses in real time by initiating response at the first positive test for contamination. The new questions add more details about how the food was determined to be reportable and how the producer determined what lots were affected. The questions give the FDA a better description of the pathogen detected and the food's intended consumption. The new data are voluntary, but later this year the new elements will become mandatory, according to the agency.
Jun 4 FDA statement

Vietnam gets CDC assistance with fatal infection mystery
An expert from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) arrived in Vietnam 2 days ago to help Vietnamese officials investigate an unidentified skin disease that has killed 23 people in Quang Ngai province, Voice of Vietnam reported yesterday.  Two recent deaths from the disease were reported in late May. Since April 2011 the disease has sickened about 240 people in five communes in the province's Ba To district. Symptoms include keratosis of the hands and feet with ulcers that resemble burns and limb stiffness, according to the report. Earlier reports said symptoms begin with fever and appetite loss and can progress to liver or multiorgan failure. Vietnam's health ministry has taken nearly 2,000 samples for testing, including soil, water, hair, fingernails, and scabs, but so far the results haven't yielded a diagnosis. Health authorities have surveyed insect populations in the affected areas, but no links to the disease have been found. According to the report, the CDC expert will help Vietnamese workers classify samples from patients and send several typical samples for testing at CDC labs. In mid April Vietnam asked for international help in identifying the disease.
Jun 4 Voice of Vietnam story
Apr 20 CIDRAP News Scan "Vietnam seeks WHO, CDC help in identifying fatal disease"

Israeli measles spike attributed to pockets of low vaccination rates
Measles cases are up significantly in Israel this year, especially in the north where vaccination rates are low, the Tel Aviv–based Haaretz newspaper reported yesterday. Through May, 2012 cases stood at 96, compared with 4, 14, and 2 cases through the first 5 months of the previous 3 years, health officials said. About two thirds of the cases were in the north, while 20% were in Tel Aviv. The spike in cases appears to be concentrated in northern Israeli towns that have vaccination rates below 90% and in refugee communities in Tel Aviv. The country's overall measles vaccination rate is 94%.
Jun 4 Haaretz article

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