News Scan for May 20, 2014

'Feeder' rodent Salmonella outbreak
Vaccinations and spying
A Minnesota ban on triclosan
Bacteria in airplane cabins
H7N9 in China

Frozen rodents linked to 18-state Salmonella outbreak

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its state health partners are investigating a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak linked to frozen rodents used to feed pet snakes and other reptiles. So far 37 illnesses in 18 states have been reported since Jan 11, the CDC said in its outbreak announcement today

Of 32 patients with available information, 5 were hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported. Patient ages range from 1 to 69 years, and 59% of the patients are female. Illness onsets ranged from Jan 11 to Apr 23. The CDC said public health officials are using PulseNet, a national subtyping network, to identify other cases linked to the outbreak.

Interviews with sick patients found that 17 of 21 people who had contact with reptiles had also been exposed to feeder rodents. Oregon's public health lab identified the outbreak strain in one unused frozen mouse sold by Reptile Industries, Inc., under the brand name Arctic Mice and sold at PetSmart. The sample was from a sick person's house.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators found the outbreak strain in two samples collected during their probe of the company's facility. Because Reptile Industries has not voluntarily recalled its products, the FDA has issued a warning to pet owners.

The CDC's antibiotic resistance testing program found that the outbreak strain is susceptible to all antibiotics.

From the fall of 2011 through early 2012,, similar outbreaks of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- were linked to feeder rodents, with 46 human illnesses in 22 states. An Apr 20, 2012, report from the CDC on those outbreaks said Salmonella may now be endemic in feeder rodents. The agency said young children should avoid exposure to reptiles and amphibians, and it urged pet owners to be aware of the Salmonella infection risks.
May 20 CDC outbreak announcement
Apr 19, 2012, CIDRAP News item "Feeder rodents cited in 22-state Salmonella outbreak"


US pledges not to use vaccination programs for spying

A top Obama administration official has pledged that the US government will not use vaccination programs as a cover for spying, as it did in the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday.

Lisa Monaco, Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, made the promise in a May 16 letter to the deans of 13 schools of public health, saying the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) would no longer use vaccination programs or workers to gather intelligence, according to the story.

It noted that a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, ran a hepatitis vaccination program in Abbottabad as cover for his CIA-backed effort to obtain DNA samples from children at a compound where bin Laden was later killed in a 2011 raid by US Navy SEALs. Afridi was convicted and sentenced by a Pakistani court to 33 years in prison for treason, but the sentence was later overturned and he faces a retrial.

The public health deans were among a group of medical authorities who criticized the CIA's use of the vaccination program, the AP said. The program has been seen as helping to fuel the killing of polio vaccination workers by militants in Pakistan.

In her May 16 letter, Monaco said the US "strongly supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and efforts to end the spread of the polio virus forever." She wrote that CIA Director John Brennan promised in August 2013 that the agency would "make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers."

Monaco also pledged that no DNA or genetic material from such programs would be used and said the CIA policy applied worldwide. She and the CIA, however, did not acknowledge any error in using the fake vaccination program, the story said.
May 19 AP story


Minnesota will ban triclosan from consumer products in 2017

Minnesota has enacted a law that will ban the use of the antibacterial chemical triclosan in most consumer products starting in 2017, making it the first state to do so, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported yesterday.

The legislation, which cites health and environmental concerns, was passed by state lawmakers last week and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton May 16.

The story said the US Food and Drug Administration estimates that triclosan is used in 75% of liquid soaps used in the United States. The FDA announced last year that it would reconsider the safety of triclosan and other antimicrobials used in personal cleaning products. Critics contend there's no evidence that triclosan soaps are better than plain soaps for preventing disease.

Triclosan hasn't been shown to be hazardous to humans, but studies have raised concerns that it can disrupt hormones affecting reproduction and development in lab animals and can contribute to bacterial resistance, the story said. Also, a study published last year found rising levels of triclosan in some Minnesota lakes and indicated that the substance can break down into potentially harmful dioxins.

The American Cleaning Institute had urged Dayton to veto the legislation, arguing that triclosan has been shown to provide important health benefits, the story said.

Some manufacturers, including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have already announced plans to phase out triclosan, the Star Tribune reported. State Sen. John Marty, a lead sponsor of the bill, predicted that most manufacturers will drop triclosan before the Minnesota ban takes effect in 2017.
May 19 Star Tribune story


Study says airplane surfaces can harbor bacteria for days

Two bacterial strains, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Escherichia coli O157:H7, were found capable of surviving on airplane cabin surfaces for several days in a study presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) in Boston.

Kiril Vaglenov of Alabama's Auburn University said he and his colleagues inoculated six objects and materials typically found in airplane cabins—armrest, plastic tray table, metal toilet button, window shade, seat-pocket cloth, and leather—with MRSA and E coli O157:H7. They then exposed the materials to typical airplane conditions.

MRSA lasted longest on the seat-pocket cloth, clocking in at 168 hours. E coli lingered longest, 96 hours, on the armrest material.

Said Vaglenov, "Our data show that both of these bacteria can survive for days on the selected types of surfaces independent of the type of simulated body fluid present, and those pose a risk of transmission via skin contact."

The researchers are performing similar trials using other pathogens, and they plan to explore effective cleaning and disinfection strategies as well as the capabilities of surfaces having natural antimicrobial properties.


H7N9 hospitalizes Anhui province man

China reported one H7N9 infection today, in a 40-year-old man from Anhui province, according to a health department notice translated and posted by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board.

The man is hospitalized in critical condition in Anqing, a city in the southwestern part of the province. His illness is the 12th H7N9 case to be detected in Anhui.

The case lifts the overall outbreak total to 443. So far 307 cases have been reported in the second wave of infections, which started in October and has now tapered off to just a few cases a week across eastern Chinese provinces that have already reported cases. For comparison, 136 cases were reported in the first wave last spring.
May 20 FluTrackers thread
FluTrackers human H7N9 case list

Newsletter Sign-up

Get CIDRAP news and other free newsletters.

Sign up now»


Unrestricted financial support provided by

Bentson Foundation Gilead 
Grant support for ASP provided by


  Become an underwriter»