Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – November 12th, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs
November 12 , 2004

WHO Calls Summit To Address Flu Epidemic

On November 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a summit meeting of health officials and pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of vaccine development to discuss approaches for confronting the growing risk of a human flu pandemic triggered by the current avian influenza. Recommendations will be made public in future reporting from WHO.

As has been reported for several years in the media, avian flu has infected poultry flocks across much of Southeast Asia. This year alone 44 people have been reported infected by the transmission of the H5N1 virus linked with avian flu. Thirty-two have died. Testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates the virus had not mutated into a readily transmissible form. However experts agree that the potential exists for person-to-person spread in the future, creating the first flu pandemic since 1968.

Public health officials have expressed concern that a shortage of effective vaccine and antiviral drugs is likely if a pandemic threatens. According to the WHO, sixteen vaccine-producing companies and health officials from the United States, Russia, Japan and several European countries planned to attend the summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Officials concede there is no guarantee that a vaccine will eradicate the avian virus if it mutates into a pandemic, but development of this approach is the best protection at this time.

For a survey of information on Avian Flu from the CDC, please go to: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/

Drinking Water Health Risk Training Video Released to Aid Health Care Community

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new educational training video aimed at health care providers. The video, “Tap Into Prevention: Drinking Water Information for Health Care Providers,” was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “Tap Into Prevention” was produced to help health care providers recognize, report and prevent waterborne illness from drinking water sources.

The video describes potential health risks from exposure to microbial and chemical contaminants in drinking water and demonstrates positive actions health care providers can take in their communities. The video is among a growing number of EPA’s communications devices developed to educate health care providers about environmental issues.

The video provides case studies of the 1993 cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Milwaukee, a city-wide testing program for lead in drinking water in Philadelphia’s schools and the efforts of public health nurses in rural Minnesota who educate expectant parents about the importance of testing well waters for nitrates.

For more information and to view supplemental materials visit: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/healthcare.

Norovirus Sickens More Than 1,200 at Las Vegas Hotel

Officials of Nevada’s Clark County Health District confirmed that a norovirus outbreak first reported at the Flamingo Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip on October 16th has caused more than 1,200 illnesses to date. County health officials initially reported 270 people affected. The number of individuals affected has steadily increased since the investigation was initiated.

Symptoms for norovirus include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. There is no invasive treatment for the virus, which produces symptoms that usually last two to four days. A Flamingo Hotel spokesperson says that cleaning and disinfection efforts at the hotel have been increased, as well as public education about norovirus since confirmation of the outbreak.

The Flamingo outbreak is the second in Nevada’s Clark County in less than a year. An outbreak at the California Hotel & Casino and nearby properties sickened nearly 1,700 people in December 2003.

EPA Updates Water Reuse Guidelines

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water and Office of Research and Development, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID), has released the 2004 Guidelines for Water Reuse Manual. The information toolkit was compiled to assist water and wastewater utilities and regulatory agencies in their treatment of wastewater to produce reclaimed water for public use. The Water Reuse Guidelines include recommendations on water reuse procedures and updates on water reclamation treatment technologies and current health-related issues that include information on emerging chemicals and pathogens.

The updated guidelines were developed to help water managers advance water conservation and sustainability efforts. The 2004 guidelines update the 1992 version of the document by incorporating information on water reuse issues and practices on a global level.

The Guidelines document is being distributed by EPA’s Office of Research and Development/Technology Transfer Program as one of their Manuals of Practice. For more information, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/pubs/625r04108/625r04108.pdf.( PDF)

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