Sunday, May 03, 2009

Man Sickens Swine with Flu

Alberta pigs likely infected with flu from worker: CFIA official
Number of confirmed Canadian cases now 85, all believed mild
Last Updated: Saturday, May 2, 2009 | 7:56 PM ET Comments374Recommend142
CBC News

In what would be the first reported case of its kind, a farm worker with the swine flu virus is believed to have infected about 200 pigs in Alberta, a top official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Saturday.

Senior research scientist Dr. Karuna Karunakaran works in the vaccine research lab at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control during a demonstration for media in Vancouver on Thursday. Twenty-two cases of swine flu are now confirmed in B.C.Senior research scientist Dr. Karuna Karunakaran works in the vaccine research lab at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control during a demonstration for media in Vancouver on Thursday. Twenty-two cases of swine flu are now confirmed in B.C. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)Dr. Brian Evans, executive vice-president of the CFIA, said at a news conference in Ottawa that the pigs were apparently infected by a farm worker who had recently been in Mexico and fell ill upon his return.

The worker returned from Mexico on April 12 and worked at the Alberta farm two days later. He "may have exposed pigs there to the illness," Evans told reporters.

The man has since recovered. The pigs are also recovering and the herd in question has been quarantined, he said. Samples from the infected pigs are being analyzed.

"We have found the virus is the one being tracked in the human population," Evans said. About 10 per cent of the 2,200 pigs at the farm exhibited flu-like symptoms such as loss of appetite or fever, he said.

"I want to be clear — there is no food safety concern related to this finding," said Evans.

It is common for pigs to contract influenza, he said. But this is the first known case of the H1N1 virus being transmitted from humans to pigs.

Normally, detecting influenza in pigs wouldn't generate a response from food safety officials, but with an international flu outbreak the current circumstances are different, Evans said.

"The chance that these pigs could transfer virus to a person is remote," said Evans.

The outbreak among pigs, he said, was confined to the herd in question as none of the pigs have been moved outside the farm or sold elsewhere.
Province Confirmed cases of swine flu in Canadians
Alberta 15
British Columbia 22
Nova Scotia 31
New Brunswick 1
Ontario 14
Quebec 2
Total 85
Spate of new confirmed cases

Earlier in the day, health officials in Nova Scotia, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec confirmed a spate of new swine flu cases in humans, boosting the national count to 85.

The Nova Scotia Department of Health said lab testing had confirmed 17 new cases in the province.

Eleven of the cases are related to the King's-Edgehill school community in Windsor, but the breakdown between students and staff is not known, according to the Nova Scotia Department of Health. Six other cases are outside the school population and were confirmed by testing in a Halifax hospital.

The virus, identified as a new strain of the H1N1 subtype of type A influenza, is believed to have originated in Mexico and has since appeared in Canada, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Canada's chief public health officer David Butler-Jones said Friday the more public health authorities look, the more cases they are likely to find. This assertion was echoed by Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer for Nova Scotia.

"We have been expecting this and are prepared," Strang said Saturday. "Right now we are working to gather more information about the individual confirmed cases outside of King's-Edgehill."

The cases are all mild, says the health department.

Nova Scotia's first cases of the H1N1 virus were confirmed at the private school last weekend. Officials believe students who went on a school trip to Mexico carried the infection back home.

None of the Canadian cases have been as severe as those in the Mexican outbreak.
Cases considered mild

The Alberta Department of Health confirmed seven new cases Saturday, four of them in the Edmonton area, two in the north and one in the Calgary area.

Five of those infected are female, including one child. Another male child has also been infected.

None of the cases require hospitalization, Alberta's Department of Health said in a release posted on its website. There was no further information.

West Vernon Children's Centre employee Sharyn Stokes cleans plastic toys in the preschool classrooms in Vernon, B.C. The centre runs the after-school children's programs for Beairsto Elementary School, which was recently closed because of a case of swine flu.West Vernon Children's Centre employee Sharyn Stokes cleans plastic toys in the preschool classrooms in Vernon, B.C. The centre runs the after-school children's programs for Beairsto Elementary School, which was recently closed because of a case of swine flu. (Jeff Bassett/Canadian Press)Health officials in Quebec confirmed another case of swine flu in the province Saturday. There are now two confirmed cases in the province.

Dr. Alain Poirier, Quebec's director of public health, said the virus had been found in a child who had travelled to Mexico with his parents.

He said he would not name the child or the school he attended until all teachers and parents associated with the school had been contacted.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's acting chief medical officer of health, confirmed two new cases of the virus Saturday. One of the two newly confirmed cases is in the York region, while the other is in the Toronto area.

In a release, Williams said one of the cases resulted from person-to-person transmission, as the infected individual picked up the illness from a roommate who travelled to Mexico. All the Ontario cases are believed to be mild.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control confirmed three more cases Saturday, raising its total to 22. Details of the new cases were not immediately clear, but a release on the department's website said all of the cases are "relatively mild."

So far, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. and the territories have not confirmed any cases of this particular flu strain.

Pacific Island of Rubbish

Mission to Break up Pacific Island of Rubbish Twice the Size of Texas
by Frank Pope

Published on Saturday, May 2, 2009 by The Times/UK

A high-seas mission departs from San Francisco next month to map and explore a sinister and shifting 21st-century continent: one twice the size of Texas and created from six million tonnes of discarded plastic.

Scientists and conservationists on the expedition will begin attempts to retrieve and recycle a monument to throwaway living in the middle of the North Pacific.

A shark carcass on Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, where plastic particles outnumber sand grains until you dig down about a foot (Photo: ALGALITA MARINE RESEARCH FOUNDATION)
The toxic soup of refuse was discovered in 1997 when Charles Moore, an oceanographer, decided to travel through the centre of the North Pacific gyre (a vortex or circular ocean current). Navigators usually avoid oceanic gyres because persistent high-pressure systems --- also known as the doldrums --- lack the winds and currents to benefit sailors.

Mr Moore found bottle caps, plastic bags and polystyrene floating with tiny plastic chips. Worn down by sunlight and waves, discarded plastic disintegrates into smaller pieces. Suspended under the surface, these tiny fragments are invisible to ships and satellites trying to map the plastic continent, but in subsequent trawls Mr Moore discovered that the chips outnumbered plankton by six to one.

The damage caused by these tiny fragments is more insidious than strangulation, entrapment and choking by larger plastic refuse. The fragments act as sponges for heavy metals and pollutants until mistaken for food by small fish. The toxins then become more concentrated as they move up the food chain through larger fish, birds and marine mammals.

"You can buy certified organic farm produce, but no fishmonger on earth can sell you a certified organic wild-caught fish. This is our legacy," said Mr Moore.

Because of their tiny size and the scale of the problem, he believes that nothing can be solved at sea. "Trying to clean up the Pacific gyre would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went."

In June the 151ft brigantine /Kaisei/ (Japanese for Planet Ocean) will unfurl its sails in San Francisco to try to prove Mr Moore wrong. Project Kaisei's flagship will be joined by a decommissioned fishing trawler armed with specialised nets.

"The trick is collecting the plastic while minimising the catch of sea life. We can't catch the tiny pieces. But the net benefit of getting the rest out is very likely to be better than leaving it in," says Doug Woodring, the leader of the project.

With a crew of 30, the expedition, supported by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Brita, the water company, will use unmanned aircraft and robotic surface explorers to map the extent and depth of the plastic continent while collecting 40 tonnes of the refuse for trial recycling.

"We have a few technologies that can turn thin plastics into diesel fuel. Other technologies are much more hardcore, to deal with the hard plastics," says Mr Woodring, who hopes to run his vessels on the recycled fuel.

Plastics bags, food wrappers and containers are the second and third most common items in marine debris around the world, according to the Ocean Conservancy, which is based in Washington. The proportion of tiny fragments, known as mermaid's tears, are less easily quantified.

The UN's environmental programme estimates that 18,000 pieces of plastic have ended up in every square kilometre of the sea, totalling more than 100 million tonnes. The North Pacific gyre --- officially called the northern subtropical convergence zone --- is thought to contain the biggest concentration. Ideal conditions for shifting slicks of plastic also exist in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the North and South Atlantic, but no research vessel has investigated those areas. If this exploratory mission is successful, a bigger fleet will depart in 2010.

Mr Woodring admits that Project Kaisei has limitations. "We won't be able to clean up the entire ocean. The solution really lies on land. We have to treat plastics in a totally different way, and stop them ever reaching the ocean."

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.