NEWS SCAN: E coli salad outbreak ends, USDA's 'test and hold' rule, more meningitis cases, infectious-disease advances

Dec 11, 2012

CDC says greens-linked E coli outbreak is over
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday that an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to a Massachusetts company's fresh greens appears to be over, sickening a total of 33 patients in five states. The CDC first announced the outbreak on Nov 17, and since then it received reports of five new cases. Of 28 patients with information available, 13 were hospitalized, and 2 had hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potential fatal kidney complication. No deaths were reported. The CDC said that although local, state, and federal investigations have linked the illnesses to prepackaged leafy greens produced by State Garden of Chelsea, Mass., they haven't yet pinpointed the contamination source. Most of the patients sickened in the outbreak are from New York, and those patients reported they ate a Wegmans greens mix the week before they became ill. State Garden produced the Wegmans greens implicated in the outbreak, which involved a rare pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) E coli O157:H7 pattern that had only been detected in PulseNet seven times before.
Dec 10 CDC final outbreak update

USDA's 'test and hold' rule to take effect in February
A new federal rule requiring meat and poultry producers to hold certain products until government safety test results come in will take effect Feb 8, 2013, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced yesterday. Most meat processors now voluntarily hold products while USDA test results are pending, but some don't, and 44 recalls were prompted when USDA testing found pathogens from 2007 through 2009, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) said when it proposed the "test and hold" rule in April 2011. In a Federal Register notice yesterday, the FSIS said it has made no changes to the rule as originally proposed. The rule covers raw beef that is tested for E coli O157:H7 and six other Shiga toxin–producing E coli (STEC) strains, plus ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that are tested for Listeria, STEC, and Salmonella. The policy does not cover raw meat or poultry products that are tested for Salmonella or other pathogens that the FSIS does not classify as adulterants. The FSIS had been considering imposing a "test and hold" rule for at least 10 years, but it held back out of concern for small businesses. Food safety advocates and the American Meat Institute, a trade group, welcomed the new rule, according to a Food Safety News (FSN) story today. But one advocate noted that the rule applies only to meat tested by the FSIS, which tests just a small fraction of the meat supply.
Dec 10 Federal Register notice
Dec 11 FSN story
Apr 5, 2011, CIDRAP News story about test and hold

CDC: 49 more fungal illnesses linked to tainted steroids
A multistate fungal illness outbreak linked to a contaminated methyprednisolone acetate injections from a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy has sickened 49 more patients, pushing the outbreak total to 590 cases, according to a CDC update yesterday. Of the newly reported cases, 39 had paraspinal or spinal infections only, 5 had meningitis with or without other infection, 4 had peripheral joint infection only, and 1 had a paraspinal infection with a peripheral joint infection. One more death was reported, raising the outbreak's fatality total to 37. The outbreak, tied to three contaminated lots of steroid from New England Compounding Center (NECC), has revealed problems with other NECC products and at other compounding pharmacies and has sparked Congressional probes into federal and state gaps in the oversight of large pharmacy compounders.
Dec 10 CDC update

Commentary: 20 years of advances on emerging infectious diseases
The public health community's awareness of and approach to emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) have improved significantly in the 20 years since a landmark Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the topic, two leading experts said in an mBio commentary today. In marking the 1992 IOM report "Emerging Infections: Microbial Threats to Health in the United States," David M. Morens, MD, and Anthony S. Fauci, MD, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that although the world has faced new diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, significant advances have occurred in EID control, prevention, and treatment. Among them are genomics-associated advances in microbial detection and treatment, improved disease surveillance, and greater awareness of EIDs and their underlying factors. The authors conclude, "We are in a time of great change in which both the challenge of EIDs and our responses to them are being transformed. Recent advances support guarded optimism that further breakthroughs lie ahead."
Dec 11 mBio commentary

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