Thursday, February 12, 2009

Salmonella scare and deliberate deception, a first?; Marburg-- recalling "The Hot Zone"?


Once in a while, this column does cover public health issues, and the recent salmonella scare at the Georgia peanut products factory certainly fits the concern. Feb. 10, 2009 Jennifer Merritt posted a column “Coping with the Peanut Butter Salmonella Scare,” on the Wall Street Journal online, link here. That story in turn links to a WSJ copy of an AP story about the Food and Drug Administration’ finding that the company knew that the product was tainted and quibbled over the ethics of what it had to do, making up pseudo-excuses.

That certainly could become as scary an incident as any other public health threat, such as H5N1 or HIV, the idea that someone or some company could practice “deliberate negligence.” It should be pondered.

There is another recent important public health story. Tillie Fong has an article in the Rocky Mountain News (Denver) Feb. 7 about the Lutheran Medical Center’s treatment of a case of Marburg virus (related to Ebola virus). Marburg virus was the subject of the first chapter of Richard Preston’s 1994 book “The Hot Zone”, and it also appears in Laurie Garrett, Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance . Marburg and Ebola have generally been thought to be transmissible by body fluids and blood, but are much more transmissible than HIV and Preston maintains that a simian variety is actually casually transmissible (the Ebola Reston 1989 incident). At Fort Detrick, MD they are “level 4” biohazards, among the deadliest known.

Today, there were also multiple media reports on significant research breakthroughs on the internals of the common cold virus.

Also, a special federal court ruled that there is no compelling scientific evidence that would show that MMR vaccines cause autism. The plaintiffs (parents of kids with autism) will not collect damages. The government has always maintained that almost mandatory vaccination is important to create "herd immunity" and protect the public as a whole.

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