Life is a funnel cake — and viruses

Maryn McKenna writes in Mother Jones that the ways that farm kids and their families handle pigs at agricultural fairs put them at risk for novel flu viruses that are circulating among swine, and the close contact between children and show pigs could be a bridge that allows new flu strains to spread widely among humans.

That’s the warning in an analysis just released by the scientific journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk can be reduced, the analysis says, but exhibitors and visitors need to take steps to protect themselves.

“We’re bringing animals and people from multiple, diverse backgrounds into close proximity to each other for a prolonged period of time—these shows can go on for a week or more,” said Dr. Andrew Bowman, an assistant professor at Ohio State University and the senior author on the study. “The analogy I use is kids in preschool: If one brings in something, by the end of a week they’ll all have it.”

In the summer of 2016, 18 kids and adults who were part of families that showed pigs came down with novel strains of flu after attending seven fairs in Ohio and Michigan. That was the latest outbreak in a slow wave that has been washing through state fairs since the summer of 2012, when 306 people caught swine flu from pigs at fairs; 16 were sick enough to be hospitalized and one person died.

Swine flu” might be familiar; it was what people called the pandemic of 2009, when a new variant of flu that moved from pigs to people swept the world and made millions sick — only mildly so, fortunately, instead of the dire illness that killed millions of people in the “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: 2 sick with campy: It was the foie gras at Seattle restaurant

I always have a thermometer in my backpack.

That’s how much of a food safety nerd I am, and why I don’t get invited to dinner parties (and, I can be an asshole).

King County Public Health investigated an outbreak of Campylobacter associated with a single meal party at Café Juanita in Kirkland on June 24, 2017.

On July 24th, Public Health learned about two ill persons from a single meal party during an interview with an ill person diagnosed with Campylobacter. We were not able to confirm illness information about the second ill person until August 16th. No other ill persons have been identified.

The ill persons shared multiple food items, including foie gras. Foie gras has been linked to other Campylobacter outbreaks in the past, particularly when eaten raw or undercooked.

Public Health’s Environmental Health inspectors visited the restaurant on August 17th. During the field inspection, inspectors observed the cooking process and checked the final cooking temperature of the foie gras. Although it reached a safe temperature during the inspection, workers had not been using a thermometer. They were instructed to use a food thermometer to ensure that all foods are reaching the correct temperatures to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. The restaurant worked cooperatively with Public Health.

Inspectors made a return visit on August 22nd and reviewed sources and preparation steps of the other foods that the two cases may have also consumed.

It’s podcasts all the way down: I talk food safety stuff with Food Safety Magazine

Don and I started podcasting because it was kind of fun to chat with each other about nerd stuff every couple of weeks. It all started as part of IAFP’s 100 anniversary meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where we recorded a 40 min conversation with each other for NPR’s StoryCorps (which we now refer to as Episode Zero). 133 episodes later, Food Safety Talk is still going strong with about 3000 subscribers.

Early on in our podcasting we appeared as guests on lots of other shows, including a bunch from Dan Benjamin’s 5by5 network. Others have joined us in the food safety podcasting world including the good folks at Food Safety Magazine who started Food Safety Matters a while back.

A couple of weeks ago I recorded a fun episode with Barbara VanRenterghem and we talked about how I got into food safety; some of the research we’re doing; and, evaluating safe food handling messages.

Check it out here.

CJD sucks: UK special forces legend who blew up Saddam’s communications network dies of CJD

A superfit, special forces legend from Gloucestershire who carried out a real-life “mission impossible” behind enemy lines has died after developing the human form of Mad Cow Disease.

Father-of-three Mark Phillips MBE was just 56 when he died earlier on August 12 and was well-know figure in military circles for his brave exploits in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Known as Lt. Colonel Mark ‘Foggy’ Phillips of the Special Boat Squadron, he is said to have being diagnosed with Sporadic-Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in June. It is so rare that only one in one million people develop it.

It is believed that Mr Phillips attended Balcarras School in Cheltenham before embarking on an outstanding military career which saw him join the SBS in 1987 and become one of its fittest and most respected officers.

Commandant General of the Royal Marines, Major General Rob Magowan, led the tributes to the officer who is said to have carried out hundreds of forays behind enemy lines, including an audacious mission to blow up Saddam Hussein’s telecommunications cables buried under a sports arena near the centre of Baghdad.

Sources say diversion was created so Lt Col Phillips and his SBS team could fly in on Chinooks at low altitude to avoid the radar and then then plant hundreds of pounds of explosives.

An SBS source told the Daily Mail that many of those in the know did not expect them to make it back alive from the 1991 raid because it was the “It was the proverbial ‘mission impossible’.”

But it was so successful in bringing down Iraqi communications during the first Gulf War that a piece of cable recovered from the scene was later put on display at the Imperial War Museum.’

The military man returned to Iraq in 2003 with the SBS and in 2008 he was said to have joined a special UK-US Special Forces unit known as Task Force 42 which tracked Taliban commanders.

Major General Magowan said: “Foggy was an inspiration, both to me and across our Corps. Bright, physically strong, courageous, hugely visionary and immediately engaging, he had all the attributes of a Royal Marine.

“People were swept up by his energy and leadership. I first met him on an adjacent rowing machine and I must admit to feeling intimidated. As an organisation, we are considerably less rich with his passing.”

Although he kept out the public eye, he was also known as an athlete and the 1990s he won the 125-mile Devizes to Westminster canoe race, which has previously won by Paddy Ashdown and Ranolph Fiennes, four times in succession.

Organisers paid tribute to him on the event’s Facebook page and said: “His athletic feats are legend and amongst these achievements, he was a 4 times winner of the Devizes to Westminster canoe race.

“Lt Col Mark Phillips MBE, Royal Marines was a professional of the highest order – we will be hard put to meet his like again.”

According to his LinkedIn profile he left the military in 2013 and had his own security business.

A death notice in GloucestershireLive read: PHILLIPS M.B.E. Mark Sadly passed away on 12th August 2017 after a short illness. “Husband to Jacqui and father to Emily, George and Bethany. Son of Brian and Pat and brother to Stephen and Adrian. Funeral service will take place at Milton Abbey, Dorset on 25 August.”

Gastro outbreak hits more than 50 day care centres in Brisbane

It’s winter in Brisbane, Australia, with highs in the 90s F (30s C) a couple of weeks ago, and today where I went to the arena for a lunchtime skate with Amy in shorts and the loudest Hawaiian shirt I own (additional layers were added once in the arena), and where what they call gastro outbreaks have increased dramatically.

Seven elderly people have died from gastro at one Brisbane nursing home – vigorously denied by the operator – and more than 50 daycare centres have alerted Queensland Health of gastro outbreaks.

Emergency rooms throughout Brisbane have been overwhelmed, and not just by dumbass Canadians falling off bikes.

But what is a gastro bug?

How can they not name the bug?

Regis aged care facility in the suburb of Yeronga, just down the road from us, has been in lockdown for 26 days.

A Regis spokesperson on Tuesday night reiterated “there have been no deaths confirmed as being as a result of gastro.”

“As advised previously, Regis has experienced an episode of gastroenteritis at the Yeronga facility. It was first identified on 28 July. We are pleased to say that the episode is nearing completion.”

Darren Cartwright of the Courier-Mail reported yesterday there has been a four-fold increase in gastroenteritis outbreaks in Brisbane’s daycare centres, with almost 200 children alone affected on the southside since June.

In total more than 50 daycare centres have alerted Queensland Health of an outbreak of gastroenteritis.

A Queensland Health spokesman acknowledged the outbreaks were “significantly” higher this year than for the same eight week periods in 2016.

“The data indicates a significantly high number of outbreaks during this eight week period in 2017, however, it should be noted that half of these outbreaks involved fewer than 10 unwell children,” the spokesman said.

That will make the parents and kids feel better.

“In general, it has been a big year for viral gastroenteritis outbreaks across the region.”

Oh, it’s a virus.

Does the virus have a name?

 

Cyclospora gets around

As summer grinds on in the Northern Hemisphere, Cyclospora is again spreading: at least 78 in the UK; 57 in Canada (which appear to be locally acquired; and, 712 lab-confirmed cases in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control reports Cyclospora cayetanensis is a single-celled parasite that causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.

As of August 16, 2017 (3pm EDT), CDC has been notified of 712 laboratory-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in persons who became ill in 2017. This number includes persons who reported international travel as well as persons who did not report travel. The reports have come from 36 states.

At least 347 (49%) of these persons did not report international travel (i.e., likely were infected in the United States) and became ill on or after May 1, 2017 (a date after which cases tend to increase each year). These 347 persons were from the following 31 states: Arizona (1), California (5), Colorado (6), Connecticut (18), Florida (36), Georgia (4), Illinois (11), Indiana (3), Iowa (8), Kansas (2), Louisiana (3), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (11), Michigan (1), Minnesota (10), Missouri (8), Montana (2), Nebraska (5), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (10), New Mexico (1), New York (excluding NYC) (12), New York City (27), North Carolina (19), Ohio (6), Pennsylvania (1), Rhode Island (2), South Dakota (4), Texas (116), Utah (1), Virginia (2), and Wisconsin (7).

At this time, no specific vehicle of interest has been identified, and investigations to identify a potential source (or sources) of infection are ongoing. It is too early to say whether cases of Cyclospora infection in different states are related to each other or to the same food item(s).

Previous U.S. outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce (e.g., basil, cilantro, mesclun lettuce, raspberries, snow peas). Consumers should continue to enjoy the health benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a well-balanced diet.

What to do with the sponge

The kitchen sponge has been gaining a lot of traction lately in food safety media that stemmed from the recent German study that analyzed 14 sponges. Don Schaffner provided his expertise regarding the validity of the study on Barfblog earlier.

It is no surprise that sponges harbor bacteria, what is surprising is all of the conflicting messaging on what to do with them. Food safety messaging needs to be rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated. Unfortunately it is not just food safety messaging on social media, inconsistency exists within food safety Regulations in Canada compounding the problem further. But that’s a whole other blog.

A study conducted in 2007 evaluated different disinfection methods to reduce bacteria, yeasts and molds on kitchen sponges (1). Sponges were soaked in 10% bleach solution for 3 min, lemon juice (pH 2.9) for 1 min, or deionized water for 1 min, placed in a microwave oven for 1 min at full power, or placed in a dishwasher for full wash and drying cycles, or left untreated (control). The study showed that microwaving or placing the sponge in a dishwasher significantly lowered aerobic bacterial counts on sponges more than chemicals and control.

Doug Williams of the The San Diego Union Tribune writes:

As a longtime food safety consultant, teacher and inspector, Robert Romaine has seen plenty of disastrous and dirty commercial kitchens.
He knows the menacing microbes that make us sick and has seen the evils lurking in kitchen corners.
So, he has a couple of rules. One, avoid potlucks. Who knows how that chicken salad was prepared. And two, when invited to a friend’s house for dinner, put the blinders on.
“When I’m visiting someone, I try not to hang around the kitchen,” says Romaine, who owns Food Safety Consulting in San Diego. “Sometimes I know too much, and I just don’t want to know what’s going on in there.”
The dangers are many, from improper refrigeration to cross contamination. But recently, there’s been an added focus on kitchen sinks and counters and the way people keep them clean — or don’t.
Yet as Romaine notes, precautions can easily be taken in our home kitchens to lessen the dangers of contamination.
Take that disgusting sponge, for instance.
“If a person is careful and actually knows they got the sponge up to 180 degrees (when cleaning it), nothing’s going to live,” he says. The key is being certain the temperature is high enough, not just warm but lethally hot. Federal government guidelines suggest 165 degrees as the minimum temperature for killing bacteria. A food thermometer can be used to test that sponge after microwaving. Adds Joyce Wilkins, who taught food safety for years in San Diego through her business, Safe at the Plate: “Yes, the sponge is fairly disgusting. All bacteria, all organisms die at 165 degrees, so if you heat it up hot enough to burn you in the microwave, you will kill it.”

Wilkins, in fact, discourages the use of a sponge and suggests buying a pack of 10 dishcloths instead and using a fresh one every 24 hours. “The big issue is dampness,” she says. “Bacteria need water to survive, and if the cloth is dried out each time,” it helps prevent bacteria growth.

Romaine suggests using paper towels instead of cloths or a sponge for cleanup, especially after preparing meat or chicken. Paper towels can be thrown away so bacteria can’t be transferred. “Obviously, if you just cut up raw chicken, you don’t want to use a household sponge for that,” he says. “But if you’re just wiping up debris from cutting up bread or vegetables, that’s not very harmful.”

Wilkins also will use isopropyl alcohol to clean surfaces, along with a stiff-bristled brush instead of a sponge. A cutting board used to prepare chicken, for instance, will be scrubbed with a brush and hot, soapy water, then treated with some of the alcohol to kill remaining germs, rinsed and allowed to air dry. The same system can be used for countertops, where a brush can dislodge the bio film that can build up over time (and not be rubbed away with a sponge or cloth).
Instead of using a dishtowel to dry just-washed plates and utensils — a towel that may have been used to dry hands or wipe a countertop — allow those plates and utensils to air dry.

Do not use isopropyl alcohol to clean surfaces, washing with soap and water applying friction is good enough.

1. Manan Sharma , Janet Eastridge, Cheryl Mudd. 2007. Effective household disinfection methods of kitchen sponges. Food Control 20 (2009) 310–313

Hong Kong fairytales: More Vibrio: Suspected food poisoning outbreak in tour group

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is investigating a suspected outbreak of food poisoning in a tour group, and hence urged the public to maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene to prevent food-borne diseases.

Because all foodborne illness is caused by poor personal hygiene, and not contaminated product.

Not

The outbreak affected six members of the tour group, comprising two men and four women aged from 44 to 80, who developed abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting 14 to 40 hours after their lunch buffet in a restaurant in a hotel in Macau on August 13 arranged by a travel agent in Hong Kong.

Among them, three sought medical attention in Hong Kong and required no hospitalisation. All affected persons have been in stable condition.

The stool specimen of one patient tested positive for Vibrio parahaemolyticus upon laboratory testing.

 

Dozens of guests at Ibiza hotel struck down by gastroenteritis amid fears dirty rainwater seeped into water tanks

One of my fondest childhood memories was the rain barrels my grandparents used to collect water.

I have no idea why, other than a foreshadowing of somewhat of a career in microbiology, but the memories remain vivid.

Now we live in Australia, which has 10 years of drought followed by a 1-in-500-year downpour, so we have these bloody big rain water collection tanks that look nothing like my grandparents.’

Around 50 guests at an Ibiza hotel popular with British holidaymakers have fallen ill with suspected gastroenteritis.

A pregnant woman needed hospital treatment and doctors were made available for 49 other guests following the outbreak at the four-star Hotel Algarb in Playa d’en Bossa,

A probe is now underway to establish the cause, although it has been initially linked to rainwater from midweek storms on the island filtering into hotel water tanks and ending up being used to make ice.

The mum-to-be who was hospitalised with “light gastroenteritis” has now been discharged.

Cole Hansberger fights botulism

Every day after work I look forward to playing and hugging my 2 kids, it’s what keeps me going and motivated to enjoy life to its’ fullest. The following story is heartbreaking to read…

Cole Hansberger has been in the Intensive Care Unit at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale since Aug. 6, his first birthday.
The day before he turned 1, Cole’s mother, Jackie Hansberger, noticed his head was drooping as he crawled.
By 5 p.m., that evening, Cole could no longer crawl.
At 3 a.m., the next morning, he could no longer sit up, she said.
The Peoria woman took her son to an emergency room, after which he was then transferred to Banner Thunderbird to be further evaluated.
Cole eventually was diagnosed with botulism, a rare condition that affects about 110 people per year in the United States, 72 percent of them infants, according to Banner officials.
Botulism is caused by ingesting spores of bacteria found in dirt, soil, dusty areas and certain foods.
These spores produce toxins that can lead to paralysis, said Dr. Rahul Chawla, pediatric critical-care physician at Thunderbird Medical Center who is treating Cole.
Jackie Hansberger said she hasn’t been home since Cole was admitted to intensive care.
“I refuse to leave his bedside,” she told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday. “Every day I sit, stare at the monitor all day, just to make sure my son’s breathing and he’s OK.
“Sometimes you get frustrated with your children, but I would pay a million dollars just to hear my son cry right now. I haven’t held him in over a week.”
Hansberger described Cole as rambunctious and amazing. His eyes and smile light up the room, she said.
She also has a 4-year-old son who is at home with her husband.
Chawla works 24-hour shifts and said he often gets close with a patient’s parents.
“Cole’s mom’s a rock,” he said. “I don’t think she’s left the unit.”
Hansberger has been told Cole faces a long recovery, but doctors offer a hopeful prognosis.
According to Chawla, Cole is still critically ill. He is on a ventilator and has minimal movement in his arms and legs. He will remain in intensive care for the next week to 10 days.
Cole will have to learn muscle memory again and undergo physical therapy sessions, which could last months. But Chawla said Cole should be able to return to a normal life.
Chawla said people should know the symptoms of botulism so they can seek medical attention immediately.
He said Cole’s symptoms were a classic indicator: muscle weakness, often starting with the nerves in the face and moving downward to the legs.
Chawla said people should avoid ingesting or being exposed to dirt, and washing fruits and vegetables to reduce the chances of botulism.
Hansberger wants all parents to be aware of botulism, although it is extremely rare.
“As a parent, you never expect it,” she said. “It’s a very scary experience. It humbles you as a person. Nothing else matters except in the moment.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Cole and his family