Gottlieb: FDA food inspectors reduced by more than half during shutdown
According to a series of tweets made by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, the agency is trying its best to handle food safety inspections and other critical work during what has become the nation's longest government shutdown.
"Our Office of Human and Animal Food Operations has more than 200 food investigators (not counting support staff and supervisors) out of about 550 total professionals when the agency is fully operational," Gottlieb said. "We're deeply grateful for the FDA professional staff that continue to carry on this mission unpaid, while also incurring expenses on their personal government credit cards for travel. We're doing everything we can to support them as they protect American consumers."
Gottlieb said a number of food safety operations are still under way. They include high-risk domestic food surveillance inspections, foodborne illness surveillance and outbreak investigations, execution of high-risk food recalls, inspection of foreign food facilities, and sampling of imported food samples—including sampling for antibiotic residue contamination and decomposition analysis.
According to Food Safety News, the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) continues to deploy most of its workforce of nearly 10,000 during the shutdown. FSIS inspectors must check all meat and poultry sold to US consumers.
Scott Gottlieb Twitter feed
Jan 22 Food Safety News story
South Korean study highlights nosocomial SFTS transmission
A new study in Clinical Microbiology and Infection describes the person-to-person transmission of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS), which is typically a tick-borne disease.
The study looked at 25 healthcare workers (HWCs) from a South Korean hospital who had contact with an index patient, a 59-year old woman who contracted the disease while chestnut picking. The patient died in the hospital, and 11 days after her death 2 of the HCWs developed symptoms of SFTS.
Among the HCWs who had direct contact with the index patient, 5 were confirmed to have SFTS. Those 5 had contact to blood or bloody respiratory secretions of the index patient without adequate use of personal protective equipment (PPE), the study authors said. Only HCWs who had contact with the patient during the hemorrhagic phase of her disease contracted SFTS at a rate of 33.3%, (5 of 15 HCWs).
SFTS, an emerging infectious disease, is most commonly transmitted through the Haemaphysalis longicornis (longhorned) tick. The study authors said their findings suggest that person-to-person transmission of SFTS may be associated with contact with blood or bloody respiratory secretions of an infected person, and PPE should be used when treating SFTS patients.
Previous instances of likely nosocomial (healthcare-related) spread have been documented in South Korea, including 4 of 27 HCWs in a cluster likely related to respiratory secretions or bodily fluids in 2015 and a case last month potentially involving aerosol transmission.
Jan 21 Clin Microbiol Infect study
Feb 18, 2015, Clin Infect Dis study
Dec 19, 2018, Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol abstract
Human-to-human spread suspected in Argentina hantavirus outbreak
Argentina's health ministry has reported an increase in hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) cases in a southern Patagonian city in Chubut province, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in a statement.
Since Oct 28, officials confirmed 29 lab-confirmed HPS cases, 11 of them fatal, prompting Argentinian health officials to issue an epidemiologic alert.
The investigation so far suggests potential human-to-human transmission. Though people usually contract hantavirus from rodent habitats, limited human-to-human transmission of HPS due to Andes virus in Argentina has been documented before.
According to the report, the first patient got sick on Nov 2 after environmental exposure and attended a party the next day. Six people who attended the party later began having symptoms from Nov 20 tp Nov 27, followed by 17 more cases in people who had epidemiologic links to the earlier patients. As of Jan 17, officials are monitoring 98 asymptomatic contacts.
One of the confirmed case-patients is a healthcare worker from Chile who had traveled to the outbreak location for 1 day in the middle of November and later hosted and cared for a person with an earlier infection while she was in her prodromal phase. The WHO said the health worker's infection marks the first case of hantavirus in Chile's Los Lagos region in 2019.
Argentina has four endemic regions, and from 2013 through 2018 the country averaged about 100 confirmed HPS cases each year. Health authorities in both counties are implementing several public health measures, including enhanced surveillance and deploying outbreak investigation teams to affected areas.
Jan 23 WHO statement