News Scan for Mar 16, 2017

Animal antibiotic use
E Coli in Oregon, Canada
Zika CNS birth defects
H5N8 in Europe
Cholera vaccine drive

Report: More oversight, data needed on antibiotic use in food animals

A report today from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is calling on the two federal agencies responsible for ensuring the safety of the food supply to address oversight gaps and collect more information on the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.

The report, requested by members of Congress, notes that since 2011, when the GAO last reported on the issue, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have increased veterinary oversight of antibiotic use in food-producing animals and made several improvements in collecting data on antibiotic use and resistance in food animals. But in reviewing documents, interviewing stakeholders, and reviewing steps taken by Canada and the European Union, the GAO found that more needs to be done, particularly in regard to establishing appropriate durations of use on drug labels and collecting farm-specific data.

The GAO report includes six recommendations, in which they call on HHS and the USDA to develop a process for establishing appropriate durations of use for medically important antibiotics, collect more farm-specific data on antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in food animals, and to develop metrics for assessing progress on those goals. They also recommend that HHS develop a framework with the USDA to decide when to conduct on-farm investigations of foodborne-illness outbreaks from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Mar 16 GAO report


Two E coli cases at Oregon preschool tied to national nut butter outbreak

Two of seven people infected with Escherichia coli at a preschool in Portland, Ore., have been linked to the national outbreak involving I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, Food Safety News (FSN) reported today. And in a related development, Canadian officials are tracking a 24-case outbreak involving the O121 strain of E coli.

The seven people infected in Oregon—six children and an adult—are all from one classroom at Montessori of Alameda school, FSN reported. Four infections were confirmed to be caused by the O157:H7 genotype, and so far two patients have been genetically matched to the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin–producing O157:H7 E coli. Three others were infected with a Shiga toxin–producing strain, with further tests pending on the exact type.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first announced the outbreak on Mar 3, when it involved 12 cases. On Mar 7 the agency expanded the outbreak to 16 cases in nine states. The SoyNut Butter Company of Glenview, Ill., on Mar 7 issued a recall of all varieties of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butters and all varieties of I.M. Healthy Granola products. It expanded the recall on Mar 10 to include Dixie Diner's Club brand Carb Not Beanit Butter.

Canada, meanwhile, is investigating a four-province outbreak involving 24 infections with E coli O121. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on Mar 13 announced the 4 most recent cases, in British Columbia. Other affected provinces are Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Illness-onset dates range from November 2016 to last month. No food vehicle has yet been identified.
Mar 15 FSN story
Mar 13 PHAC update


Colombia study describes severe CNS defects linked to Zika

A report in Emerging Infectious Diseases yesterday describes severe central nervous system (CNS) defects in two fetuses exposed to Zika virus in utero. Both cases come from Colombia, which reported its first case of Zika virus in October of 2015.

The first case autopsied involved a 20-week-old fetus whose mother reported symptoms of Zika virus at 5 to 6 weeks gestation. An ultrasound at 15 weeks showed exenphaly, or absence of the cranial vault with brain tissue loss. Amniotic fluid taken at 17 weeks tested positive for Zika.

The second case was in a 27-week-old fetus. The autopsy showed abnormal clefts in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain (schizencephaly). The mother said she experienced symptoms of Zika between weeks 16 and 20 of pregnancy.

Besides brain abnormalities, both fetuses had notable abnormalities in the CNS, including the eyes, spleen, and placenta. Zika virus was the only pathogen found in tissue and amniotic fluid samples.

The authors say that Zika-positive tissues found outside the brain expand the current understanding of the systemic infection that takes place when a fetus is exposed to the mosquito-borne illness.

"These 2 cases of fetal Zika virus infection involved severe brain tissue damage and expand the spectrum of CNS defects that might result from congenital Zika virus infection," the authors write. "Multiple tissues tested positive for Zika virus in both cases, providing strong evidence of vertical transmission."
Mar 15 Emerg Inf Dis study


Lithuania and Romania report more H5N8 outbreaks

Two European countries—Lithuania and Romania—reported new outbreaks involving highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza, according to the latest updates from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Lithuania's outbreak relates to a mute swan found dead on Mar 11 on the bank of the Nemunas River near Kaunas, the country's second largest city. In late February and early March Lithuania reported similar deaths in swans in the same area.

Meanwhile, Romania reported six more outbreaks, one in poultry in Constanta County in the southeast, and five involving whooper swans found dead on Mar 10 in Neamt County in the northeast. The virus killed 39 poultry in Constanta and 8 whooper swans in Neamt.
Mar 16 OIE report on H5N8 in Lithuania
Mar 16 OIE report on H5N8 in Romania


Somalia and WHO launch oral cholera vaccine drive

With support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Somali's government yesterday launched an oral cholera vaccination campaign targeting 450,000 people in seven high-risk areas, the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean regional office (EMRO) said in a statement.

Since early 2017, Somalia has reported about 11,000 cholera infections, 268 of them fatal. So far, cases in the first half of this year are more than half of what the country reported for all of 2016. The outbreak has affected 11 of Somalia's regions and comes as the country announced that an ongoing drought is a national emergency.

Ghulam Popal, the WHO's representative in Somalia, said the campaign is one of the largest of its kind so far in Africa. "This vaccination campaign will contribute to the reduction in the number of new cholera cases, interrupt transmission and limit the spread of cholera," he said.

In advance of the campaign, health workers have educated community members about the vaccine and its availability. The oral vaccine will be given at fixed and mobile sites and be delivered to high risk people age 1 year and older in two rounds, one that lasts until Mar 19 and the other from Apr 18 to Apr 22.
Mar 15 WHO EMRO press release

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