NEWS SCAN: Salmonella from tahini, USDA biosecurity strategy, HHS-GSK portfolio effort, tick-borne disease in Korea, Horn of Africa polio

May 22, 2013

CDC: Tahini implicated in 8-case Salmonella outbreak in 6 states
Eight people in six states have been infected with Salmonella that probably came from imported tahini sesame paste sold by a New York company, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today. States reporting cases are California, 1; Minnesota, 2; New York, 1; North Dakota, 1; Texas, 2; and Wisconsin, 1. Illness-onset dates range from Mar 4 to Apr 30; none of the patients have been hospitalized and none have died. The CDC said state, local, and federal investigations have pointed to tahini distributed by Krinos Foods LLC of Long Island City, N.Y., as the likely source of the outbreak. Specifically, the Michigan Department of Agriculture found Salmonella Montevideo in Krinos brand tahini during routine retail sample testing, and the US Food and Drug Administration isolated Salmonella Mbandaka from imported tahini that was intended for distribution by Krinos Foods. Also, four of four patients who were interviewed reported eating homemade hummus made with Krinos brand tahini before they got sick. The company recalled tahini products on Apr 28 and expanded the recall on May 9, the CDC said. The recalled lots have expiration dates from Jan 1, 2014, to Jun 8, 2014, and from Oct 16, 2014, to Mar 15, 2015. Because the products have a long shelf life, some may still be in people's homes, the CDC said.
May 22 CDC announcement

GAO: APHIS needs to align its strategy with US biosecurity efforts
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) needs to develop goals and measures to ensure that its approach to monitoring animal health meshes with the country's goals for early detection of biological threats, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report yesterday. APHIS has moved from a disease-specific approach to surveillance to a focus on monitoring the overall health of livestock and poultry. "APHIS has a vision for its new approach but has not integrated that vision into an overall strategy with associated goals and performance measures that are aligned with the nation's larger biosurveillance efforts," the GAO said in the report. APHIS has developed planning documents related to disease surveillance, but they focus primarily on processes and don't address outcomes necessary to reach goals, the GAO said. In addition, none of the documents indicates how APHIS efforts support national homeland security goals. The USDA agreed with the GAO's assessment, the report said.
May 21 GAO report

HHS announces GSK portfolio agreement to fight bioterror, drug resistance
Drugs to simultaneously fight bioterrorism and antibiotic resistance will be developed under a partnership agreement between the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of North Carolina, HHS said in a news release today. This is the first time HHS has taken a portfolio approach with a private company instead of awarding a contract to develop a single medical countermeasure, the agency said. "Working as strategic partners with a portfolio approach offers a new way to move forward in developing a robust pipeline of novel antibiotics that address gaps in our nation’s preparedness as well as the evolving threat of antibiotic resistance," said Robin Robinson, PhD, director of HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is spearheading the effort. The agreement is flexible, so drug candidates can be moved in or out of the portfolio. An oversight committee will decide which candidates to include. One of the antibiotics initially included will be GSK'944, which has shown promise in treating anthrax, plague, and tularemia in animals. BARDA and GSK's antibiotic group will manage the portfolio initially for 18 months and potentially for up to 5 years. HHS will provide $40 million for the 18-month agreement and up to $200 million for 5 years.
May 22 HHS news release

South Korea confirms its first illness from emerging tick-borne virus
South Korea has reported its first confirmed case and another suspected case of infection with an emerging tick-borne bunyavirus, called severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) virus, according to media reports from the country. The infection has previously been reported in China and Japan. A May 21 Yonhap news service story said the infection was confirmed in a 63-year-old woman who died in Seoul in August of last year. Four other patients tested negative for the virus, which is spread by Haemaphysalis longicornis ticks, according to the story. SFTS infection is also suspected to have caused the death of a 73-year-old farmer on Jeju Island on May 16, according to a May 17 story from the Arirang news service. Medical examiners said the man died of blood poisoning but that he also had traces of tick bites and had had clinical signs suggestive of SFTS infection, which causes high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Blood samples taken before the man died are being tested for the virus, the story said. In a post on ProMED-mail, the reporting service of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, ProMED moderator Craig R. Pringle said SFTS has previously been reported in six provinces of northeastern and central China and in several provinces in Japan. The virus can spread from person to person via blood or mucus, Pringle wrote.
May 21 Yonhap story
May 17 Arirang story
May 21 ProMED post
Related Mar 16, 2011, CIDRAP News story

Horn of Africa countries battle polio outbreak
The Horn of Africa is experiencing a wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) outbreak, prompting vaccination campaigns in Somalia and Kenya, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. A 4-month-old girl who lives near Dadaab, Kenya, started having acute flaccid paralysis symptoms on Apr 30, and two of her healthy contacts tested positive for WPV1. The detections are the first lab-confirmed cases in Kenya since 2011, the WHO said. A WPV1 case was also confirmed in a patient from Banadir, Somalia, on May 9. An investigation into the outbreak is under way. The WHO said the risk to bordering countries is very high, given large-scale population movements across the region, which is home to a major refugee camp that houses nearly 500,000 people. Persistent immunity gaps are a problem in some areas. An initial vaccine campaign launched May 14 targeted 440,000 children in Somalia, and a second round is slated to begin May 26 to reach affected part of Kenya, according to the WHO. Some parts of the area—south central Somalia—are battling an outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2, which has resulted in 18 cases since 2009. In 2012 the strain spread to Dadaab, where three of the latest infections were found, the WHO said.
May 22 WHO statement

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