Australia still sucks at going public: Salmonella outbreak sickened 100 in March, shows up in annual report yesterday

In early March, 2017, more than 100 people reported becoming sick after dining at Ricardo’s Cafe in Canberra.

The outbreak was briefly noted in media accounts – only because so many people took to facebook – and then disappeared from public discussion.

Until yesterday.

According to ACT Health’s annual report there was a “disturbing” salmonella outbreak linked to Ricardo’s Cafe earlier this year.

Daniella White of The Age reports Ricardo’s was listed in the ACT Health report. 

None of the food outlets have faced prosecution, but ACT Health said it would provide reports on all three cases to the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions.

The biggest outbreak was associated with where 100 people reported suffering from gastroenteritis with 75 confirmed cases of Salmonella.

Of the confirmed cases 19 people were hospitalised, ACT Health said.

A second outbreak of Salmonella was also investigated about the same time with four confirmed salmonella infections from people who reported eating at Central Cafe in Gungahlin between January 30 and February 2.

Both cafes were found to have flaws in their food handling processes and procedures and forced to temporarily close.

Ricardo’s Cafe’s owner previously stated salmonella had been found on a dish cloth and tea towel in the cafe.

ACT Health said both cafes have been inspected since the outbreaks and found to be compliant.

A third Salmonella outbreak investigation was conducted in February and March, with 11 cases where people ate at the same restaurant over a five week period.

Several inspections of the premises did not identify any issues and the source of that outbreak remains unknown, ACT Health said.

It declined to identify the food outlet given it was found to be compliant and could not be held responsible for the outbreak.

An ACT Health spokesman said any foodborne outbreak was taken seriously by the Health Protection Service.

Associate professor Martyn Kirk, from ANU’s College of Health and Medicine said the food service industry had a responsibility to make sure it handled food safely and avoided high risk foods, such as raw eggs and improperly cured foods.

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

Depends if you’re in the capital region or NSW: Norovirus outbreak in Australia

Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times reports an isolation ward has been set up at Calvary Hospital and visitors are being discouraged as the hospital works to contain a gastro outbreak.

norovirus-2An intensive care patient was diagnosed with the highly contagious norovirus – that causes fever, cramping, vomiting and diarrhea – Friday last week.

Calvary Hospital chief executive Karen Edwards said there were 16 suspected cases of the virus and the patients were isolated.

The general medical ward 5W has been closed to new admissions and staff movement across the hospital was being restricted.

But one man said his wife, who had a caesarean birth under general anaesthetic two days ago, was rushed out on Thursday, a day early. He was concerned because she was still in a lot of pain.

“My concern is the continuance of care. The whole thing is, there were no options provided, in essence, we’re told they are getting everyone out by 11.30.”

Neighboring NSW Health issued a public health warning after an above average number of people went to emergency with gastro.

ACT Health said viral gastro cases weren’t notifiable in the capital, but the government had not seen a recent spike in cases.

‘Don’t feed the birds’ Canberra’s war on bird poo

About 10 years ago I was in Canberra and got attacked by a bird.

magpie.bicycle.helmetThis is common in Australia, especially in spring. You’ll often see cyclists with pointy things out of their helmets to deter attacks, which may be as effective as tar under the eyes to reflect sunlight (I’m looking at you, Tom Brady).

In 2011 I was attacked by a magpie and punched it in the face (beak).

A tongue-in-cheek video made by the ACT Government and posted to Facebook has already garnered thousands of views.

The video came with a serious message even though it was shot and edited like an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

tom.brady“It can be really tempting to feed birds but just remember what goes in must come out,” Territory and Municipal Services’ Mal Gale said in the video.

“Human food, like bread, is bad for birds’ digestive systems. They begin to see humans as a food source, which can increase their numbers in urban areas significantly and the chance of disease spreading climbs.

“If you’ve ever been to Trafalgar Square you’ll know what we’re talking about.

“Let’s keep the bush capital beautiful.”

But of course, being government, they only shared it on facebook and I can’t embed it. Put it on youtube.