Salmonella skyrockets in Swedish cats

In just two months, salmonella infection has been detected in 1,007 cats in Sweden. Never before have so many cases been discovered even for a whole year.

It is the Danish Veterinary Office, SVA, which reports the compilation of the number of infected cats. The Salmonella Mite is suspected to come from birds and the cats are infected at the birdboards.

Frecrik Israelsson of SVT reports this year differs from previous years in two ways; partly because the observed cases are so many, partly because the proportion of salmonella positive samples is so high among the suspected samples we get. Now, however, the culmination seems to be reached for this contagion season, “said Elina Lahti, epidemiologist SVA, according to SVA’s website.

Even humans and other animals can be infected with salmonella and SVA encourages those who have had contact with sick cats and birds to wash their hands. Even when handling bird tables and litter boxes, hand washing is important, according to SVA.

Birds: Crowds of crows spread Campylobacter

Crows are smart, highly social animals that congregate in flocks of tens of thousands. Such large, highly concentrated populations can easily spread disease — not only amongst their own species, but quite possibly to humans, either via livestock, or directly.

tippi_2431543kOn the campus of the University of California, Davis, during winter, approximately half of the 6,000 American crows that congregated at the study site carried Campylobacter jejuni, which is the leading cause of gastroenteritis in humans in industrialized countries, which could contribute to the spread of disease. The research is published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The investigators posited that the crows’ daily wanderings contributed to C. jejuni’s spread. To track the crows, they trapped a small number of individuals and attached tiny GPS devices to diminutive backpacks. They affixed these to the birds with harnesses that looped around each wing to attach at the breast. The additional weight represented less than one twentieth that of the crows.

The crows’ favored destinations were areas with easy access to food, such as a dairy barn, and a primate research center. “This movement pattern, coupled with high infection rates, suggests that crows could play an important role in transmission from wild birds to domestic animals and, ultimately, to humans,” said first author Conor Taff, PhD.

Crows are also strong flyers, and able to spread contamination far from the roost.

Crows’ social behavior also probably contributes to the pathogen’s spread. Their communal winter roosts can pack thousands of crows into a few trees each night, said Taff, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, who conducted some of the research while he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis. And crowds of crows, opportunistic omnivores, forage together, defecating where they eat. “These things together probably explain why crows have such high prevalence of infection compared to other wild birds,” said Taff.

Crows’ opportunistic foraging frequently leads them to live in proximity to humans, and to livestock, putting us at risk for infection. Among other places, crows forage at livestock feedlots and in fields containing particular crops.

Nonetheless, data is lacking on the prevalence of crow-borne strains of C. Jejuni that have the potential either to infect humans, or to easily mutate to infect humans. (A coauthor on this paper, Allison M. Weis of the School of Veterinary Medicine, Pathogen Genome Project, University of California, Davis, is working on that issue.) Nor is it clear whether Campylobacter sickens crows — another issue which team members are investigating.

“Our study is just a start, but our results suggest that integrative work that combines microbiology, ecology, and behavior is likely to be important in controlling cross-species transmission of Campylobacter,” said Taff. “Since wild birds may be an important source of initial poultry infection, it is important to understand how infection persists in wild birds and how their behavior might contribute to domestic animal infection. Our movement data are particularly interesting in this regard, because we found that crows were making heavy use of some areas with domestic animals.”

“Understanding how both this behavior and infection rates vary across the year might make it possible to devise mitigation strategies that exclude wild animals from interacting with domestic animals in certain places or at certain times of the year,” said Taff.

“Our study is among the first to combine extensive sampling and whole genome sequencing of C. jejuni with relevant information on host ecology, movement, and social behavior,” the investigators write.

“Whether crows represent a major source of domestic animal and, ultimately, human C. jejuni infection remains uncertain, but our study indicates that data on infection prevalence and molecular characteristics of isolates alone will be insufficient for understanding C. jejuni transmission dynamics,” the investigators write. They suggest that more work is needed combining genomics, ecology, and movement and social behavior of the birds. They also note that roost sizes have increased as locations have shifted from rural to increasingly urban over the last 50 years.

130 sickened by soft cheese in 2002: It was the birds

In 2005, Chapman and I went on a road trip featuring a lot of food and funny hats (I also met my wife, got a job at Kansas State and we birthed; 10 years, over 10,000 posts and 42,000 direct subscribers).

DSC00012.JPGFirst stop was Prince George, British Columbia (that’s in Canada) where Chapman was afraid he would get eaten by bears and they had foam parties.

Our host was Lynn Wilcott (on the left, wearing a funny hat).

DSC00009.JPGIn 2002, Lynn and Lorraine McIntyre investigated two outbreaks of Listeria related to soft cheese.

They weren’t allowed to publish for a while because the cases were in litigation, and then well, 10 years went by.



 Soft ripened cheese (SRC) caused over 130 foodborne illnesses in British Columbia (BC), Canada, during two separate listeriosis outbreaks. Multiple agencies investigated the events that lead to cheese contamination with Listeria monocytogenes (L.m.), an environmentally ubiquitous foodborne pathogen. In both outbreaks pasteurized milk and the pasteurization process were ruled out as sources of contamination. In outbreak A, environmental transmission of L.m. likely occurred from farm animals to personnel to culture solutions used during cheese production. In outbreak B, birds were identified as likely contaminating the dairy plant’s water supply and cheese during the curd-washing step. Issues noted during outbreak A included the risks of operating a dairy plant in a farm environment, potential for transfer of L.m. from the farm environment to the plant via shared toilet facilities, failure to clean and sanitize culture spray bottles, and cross-contamination during cheese aging. L.m. contamination in outbreak B was traced to wild swallows defecating in the plant’s open cistern water reservoir and a multibarrier failure in the water disinfection system. These outbreaks led to enhanced inspection and surveillance of cheese plants, test and release programs for all SRC manufactured in BC, improvements in plant design and prevention programs, and reduced listeriosis incidence.

 DSC00013.JPGMcIntyre, L., Wilcott, L and Naus, M. 2015. Listeriosis outbreaks in British Columbia, Canada, caused by soft ripened cheese contaminated from environmental sources. BioMed Research International, vol. 2015, Article ID 131623, 12 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/131623.


Is that an African or European swallow? Can’t kill all the birds, but can manage risk

Zoonotic enteric pathogenic bacteria can live in the intestinal tract of birds and can be transmitted to food animals or humans via fecal contact. In the present study, cecal samples were collected from 376 migratory birds from species birdsfilm460often associated with cattle during the fall migration in the Central Flyway of the United States. Brown-headed cowbirds (n=309, Molothrus ater), common grackles (n=51, Quiscalus quiscula), and cattle egrets (n=12, Bubulcus ibis) contained foodborne pathogenic bacteria in their ceca. Salmonella enterica was isolated from 14.9% of all samples, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 from 3.7%. Salmonella serotypes isolated included the following: Muenster, Montevideo, and Typhimurium.

Our data suggest that migratory birds associated with cattle could be a vector for zoonotic enteric pathogenic bacteria to be disseminated across long distances.’

Isolation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella from migratory brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater), common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), and cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis)

 Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. -Not available-, ahead of print

Callaway, Todd R., Edrington, Tom S., and Nisbet, David J.

The Zoonoses Diaries: Caught at Cat town

 Vet school doesn’t leave much time for extracurricular activities (especially during second year classes), but I try my best to stay relatively well rounded throughout these four years of academic boot camp. One of my favorite weekend activities is Cat town, a tailgating area near the football stadium here at K-State. (Doug talked about it yesterday)  Each home football game has a different Vet med-associated club volunteer to help serve food at Cat town, and yesterday’s game against Tennessee Tech was CVMF’s day (Christian Veterinary Medical Fellowship).  As a CVMF member, I helped to set up and serve lunch to the tailgaters. In typical vet student fashion, some brought their pets to the event. One of my classmates has two beautiful black-capped caiques that are always a big hit at Vet med events, and we had them strategically placed at the t-shirt selling booth to attract people to support the second year class.

Now to defend myself, when serving I wore my food-serving plastic gloves in aseptic fashion. I didn’t touch my face with my fingers or sneeze into my hands. I wish there would’ve been hand sanitizer available before I put my gloves on, because serving food hygienically involves a combination of good hand washing and regular glove changes.  We only had one server touching food directly (handing out burger buns) and everyone else used a utensil such as a spoon, knife or tongs to serve food along with gloves. During the slower parts of the afternoon, I would take breaks to chat with people and often drift over to see the birds, Monty and Apple (right). They are very charming little creatures, so I took full advantage of holding them and kissing them (glove-free).  

Lo and behold, who shows up to Cat town but my food-safety boss Doug Powell. He eyes my classmate and I suspiciously as we hold the birds on our fingers and give them kisses on the beak, all while enjoying burgers and cake (pretty much doing everything the CDC recommends avoiding).  Amy and Sorenne got an especially close look at the birds. In the background Doug said, “Keep that Salmonella factory away from my baby.” There’s the Doug I know, always thinking about the potential pathogens.

Later in the afternoon I chatted with my classmate about her food safety practices with the birds. She goes on to tell me that she frequently consumes food around her birds, and has never had any sickness in the past that could be related to the birds. While feeding the birds potatoes salad from her own fork, she tells me that she may have gotten Salmonella from them in the past, but she’s been around them so much that her body may have developed a tolerance to the bacterium. She has never has them tested to see if they carry Salmonella in their feces, though most birds do.

I’m thankful that my classmate has never had any sickness related to her birds, but that may not be the case for the rest of the nation. The young, elderly and other immunocompromised individuals are most likely to contract a zoonotic disease when handling pets. Practicing good food safety habits such as washing your hands thoroughly and cooking your meat to the proper temperature can help reduce the risk of food borne disease. Also, don’t kiss animals to allow them to lick your face, especially not in front of your boss.

Sarah Palin: what will you do about sandhill cranes pooping on peas and giving Alaskans campylobacter?

We can’t kill all the birds. That’s my usual response when talking about the practicality of on-farm food safety systems for fresh produce. Yes, birds are salmonella and campylobacter factories. But, as a farmer, you do what you can to reduce risk.

It now appears that the 18 people in Alaska sick with campylobacter got it from eating raw peas from a farm, where apparently sandhill cranes were crapping all over the peas.

The Anchorage Daily News says that Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist with the state health department, said Thursday afternoon the likely culprits in spreading the illness in Mat-Su are sandhill cranes.

Apparently the migratory birds love the peas in Mat-Valley Peas’ fields. And what geese can do to a sidewalk, cranes do to a field.

"The farmer thinks that’s the likely scenario," McLaughlin said. "He has another field with cattle nearby, but it’s highly plausible that the cranes’ poop is the cause."

Duane Clark, who markets the peas for longtime grower John Hett, said, "They don’t have proof we’re the ones, and we don’t have proof we’re not."

"I’ve been farming for over 30 years," Hett said, "and never had a problem."

Shayne Herr, Hett’s son-in-law and manager of the farm, said, "If DEC’s concerned, we’re concerned." He said his family eats raw peas all the time, "and we never get diarrhea. We wash them and we’re fine. If we don’t like them, we don’t sell them."

It’s a new marketing slogan: our food is fine cause we don’t get diahhrea.