Dec 20 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: December 20

CDC’s Top Accomplishments for 2013 Include Progress in Curtailing Outbreaks
A review by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of progress in 2013 include improvements in preventing and curtailing infectious disease and foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States and globally:

  • More than 12,000 facilities now track health care-associated infections using CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), and bloodstream infections in patients with central lines have decreased by 44 percent and surgical-site infections have decreased by 20 percent since 2008.
  • 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief(PEPFAR). In 2013, PEPFAR prevented the one millionth baby from being infected with HIV and has 6.7 million people on treatment, with HIV incidence falling in nearly all PEPFAR countries.
  • CDC published its first estimates of which foods were causing foodborne illnesses in the United States, referred to as Attribution Estimates. These estimates help regulators, industry and consumers more precisely target and implement effective measures to prevent food contamination, and allow people to use it to help guide their own food safety practices.
  • CDC scientists traced the newly discovered Heartland virus that infected two men from northwestern Missouri to populations of lone star ticks in the region. This discovery helps CDC stay one step ahead of what could become another public health threat carried by ticks.
  • In conjunction with public health officials in Eurasia’s Republic of Georgia, CDC helped identify a new poxvirus (related to smallpox) that sickened shepherds in Akhmeta, Georgia. The successful investigation shows that rapid detection saves precious time during response to emerging health threats.
  • CDC researchers found that two new antibiotic regimens using existing drugs successfully treat gonorrhea infections. This is especially important given growing antibiotic resistance and dwindling treatment options for gonorrhea.

Read more on infectious disease.

‘Consumer Reports’ Study Finds Harmful Bacteria in Many Samples of Chicken Sold in the United States
A new investigation of the safety of chicken breasts sold in retail stores across the United States by Consumer Reports found potentially harmful bacteria on 97 percent of the samples tested. And about half of the chicken samples had at least one type of bacteria that was resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics. “We are looking to the government to ensure the safety and sustainability of the entire food supply,” said Urvashi Rangan, PHD, executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “We need to attack the root causes of the problems. Without a government focus on effective solutions, meat safety will continue to be compromised.” Consumer Reports has several recommendations for the U.S. government aimed at reducing bacterial contamination in the food supply:

  • Congress should give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to mandate a recall of meat and poultry products.
  • The FDA should prohibit antibiotic use in food animals except for the treatment of sick ones. (According to Consumer Reports, FDA’s action last week giving voluntary guidance to drug companies to end labeling of antibiotics for growth promotion uses is an important first step, but is far from what is needed overall.)
  • The USDA should classify strains of salmonella bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics and known to have caused disease as “adulterants,” so that inspectors look for those strains routinely and when found, the products cannot be sold.
  • The USDA should move quickly to set strict levels for allowable salmonella and campylobacter in chicken parts.
  • The USDA’s proposed rule to increase maximum line speeds and reduce the number of USDA inspectors at slaughter plants should be dropped.

Read more on bacteria.

Health Insurers Extend Deadline for Many 2013 Health Insurance Premium Payments
The trade association for many health insurance plans has announced that many plans will be extending the deadline for consumers to pay their first month’s premium. Consumers who select their plans by December 23 and pay their premiums by January 10 will be able to have coverage effective January 1. Under current rules and guidance, consumers who want to begin coverage on January 1 must select a plan by December 23 and pay the first month’s premium by December 31. The short time period in which to complete these steps, particularly around the holidays, combined with the ongoing technical issues with the Affordable Care Act insurance purchasing site healthcare.gov have raised concerns that some consumers’ coverage may not be able to begin on January 1.  The association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, is urging consumers to check with the plan they have selected for more details about their specific coverage policy. Read more on the Affordable Care Act.

Tags: Affordable Care Act, Infectious disease, News roundups, Public health