Toilets’ water tanks confirmed to have caused norovirus in Pyeongchang

South Korea’s public health authorities have confirmed that the “water tanks of portable toilets” were the reason behind an outbreak of norovirus at the host city of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics that affected around 300 security personnel for the event last month. 

The authorities announced Sunday that the water tanks of mobile toilets were what caused the norovirus infection as a result of its epidemiological investigation of Horeb Youth Camp Center and other related facilities. According to the investigation, the genotype of the virus detected in water tanks was matched with those of patients. There had been around 570 portable lavatories set up during the Olympic period and ironically, water used to wash hands or brush teeth before leaving a toilet for the sake of hygiene was the culprit of infection.

In Indonesia, an elementary school teacher in Cempedak Lobang village, North Sumatra, appears to have escaped severe punishment, despite forcing one of her students to engage in a revolting punishment that could have easily endangered his health.

Last week, the parents of a student, identified by his initials MB, complained about their kid’s teacher, a woman with the initials RM, who subjected their son to needlessly vile corporal punishment simply because he didn’t bring his homework to school.

“My son was told to lick the toilet 12 times. But after four licks, he vomited,” said SH, MB’s mother, as quoted by Kompas yesterday.

(Considering the state of the toilet as shown in the picture below, it’s surprising that MB managed to get in any licks before throwing up…)

Norovirus strikes white Olympics

More than 1,200 security guards have been withdrawn from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics because of a norovirus outbreak, organisers said on Monday. Out of the group, 41 suffered a sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhoea on Sunday. They were transferred to hospital and most were diagnosed with a norovirus infection.

“The 1,200-odd people were pulled out from their duties,” an official of the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee was quoted as saying by AFP. “They were replaced by some 900 military soldiers. Health authorities were investigating the origin of the virus,” he said.

South Korea McDonald’s offices raided after outbreak of HUS

The UK Daily Mail reports investigators have raided McDonald’s offices in Seoul, South Korea after allegations that several children fell ill after eating the U.S. chain.

At least five children have allegedly suffered life-threatening kidney disease as a result of an infection, after being served under-cooked hamburger patties at McDonald’s.

The raid on Wednesday saw the Seoul central district prosecutors’ office confiscated documents and evidence local news reports said.

Investigators also carried out raids at three other companies, including an ingredient supplier.

A spokeswoman at McDonald’s Seoul office confirmed the raid to Reuters, but gave no reason or further details.

In July, a consumer filed a complaint against the U.S. firm, saying her daughter was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome – also known as hamburger disease – following the consumption of a McDonald’s hamburger last year.

The parent said that the four-year-old girl had been left with irreversible kidney damage.

Complaints were also filed by parents of four more children who became sick after eating McDonald’s burgers.

Was it the bulgogi burger? HUS outbreak in S. Korea linked to McDonald’s

Bulgogi is literally “fire meat,” a Korean-style grilled or roasted dish made of thin, marinated slices of beef or pork, grilled on a barbecue or on a stove-top griddle. It is also often stir-fried in a pan in home cooking

A Bulgogi burger is the same idea.

Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting an epidemiological investigation into a case of 7 children and 1 adult who showed symptoms of food poisoning with vomiting and diarrhea after eating McDonald’s hamburgers on 25 Aug 2017 at a Jeonju branch in North Jeolla.

Authorities are not ruling out the possibility that the 8 individuals contracted hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), widely known as “hamburger disease,” a bacterial infection that can leave the renal system severely damaged.

On 25 Aug 2017, a group of 15 adults and elementary school students from the same church in Jeonju visited McDonald’s Jeonju branch and ate bulgogi burgers together. A day later, 7 children and 1 adult experienced diarrhea and vomiting. The authorities declared an epidemiological probe into the case on Sat 2 Sep 2017.

As the case was publicized, McDonald’s Korea halted selling bulgogi burgers nationwide starting on Sat 2 Sep 2017. On its website, a notice says, “We have decided to stop selling bulgogi burgers pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation by authorities,” adding that the multinational company’s Korean branch was taking the issue seriously. It also said the company will do its best to help patients recover, though without elaborating on how or when.

The outcome of the ongoing probe is expected to be made public around Wed 6 Sep 2017.

ProMED-mail reports classic bulgogi recipes use a marinade of soy, ginger, garlic, and gochujang (Korean chili paste) to flavor and tenderize strips of meat. Because combining a marinade into ground beef would change the consistency of the hamburger, making it more of a “sloppy-joe”, usually a bulgogi inspired sauce is used on top of the burger although a Korean inspired spice combination can be added to the ground beef.

S. Korean men investigated after eating missing sheepdog

South Korean police say they are investigating accusations that four men killed someone’s missing sheepdog before eating it in a case that has infuriated many and caused debate on the country’s dog-eating culture.

sam-sheepdog-wolfPolice official Choi Won-kyu, from the rural city of Iksan, said Friday the men admitted to butchering and eating the dog but they said they found it dead on the side of the road.

Choi says a witness claimed seeing the dog hurt but alive hours before the men butchered it.

Although the popularity of eating dog meat is fading somewhat in South Korea, an estimated 2 million dogs are still slaughtered every year for food.


Use of Internet search queries to enhance surveillance of foodborne illness

As a supplement to or extension of methods used to determine trends in foodborne illness over time, we propose the use of Internet search metrics.

social.mediaWe compared Internet query data for foodborne illness syndrome–related search terms from the most popular 5 Korean search engines using Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service inpatient stay data for 26 International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, codes for foodborne illness in South Korea during 2010–2012. We used time-series analysis with Seasonal Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (SARIMA) models. Internet search queries for “food poisoning” correlated most strongly with foodborne illness data (r = 0.70, p<0.001); furthermore, “food poisoning” queries correlated most strongly with the total number of inpatient stays related to foodborne illness during the next month (β = 0.069, SE 0.017, p<0.001).

This approach, using the SARIMA model, could be used to effectively measure trends over time to enhance surveillance of foodborne illness in South Korea.

Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 21, Number 11—November 2015

Gyung Jin Bahk, Yong Soo Kim, and Myoung Su Park

South Korean firm recalls Salmonella-infected milk

Binggrae, a major food firm, has recalled thousands of milk cartons found to be infected with Salmonella, the company said Thursday.

melon.milkThe company recalled some 128,000 340-milliliter cartons of “melon milk” after the company received a lab report indicating the presence of the bacterium.

The products were processed in a company factory in Gimhae, south Gyeongsang Province, on March 31 with a marked expiration date of April 11.

“We decided to recall all the products before they reach consumers. The factory has put on hold the production for the moment, and our officials are conducting an on-site inspection,” the company official added.  

“We hope consumers will understand our effort in dealing with the problem in a prompt manner. From now on, we promise to toughen our safety measure in the manufacture process.”

Norovirus in seaweed

In February 2012, an outbreak of gastroenteritis was reported in school A; a successive outbreak was reported at school B. A retrospective cohort study conducted in school A showed that seasoned green seaweed with radishes (relative risk 7·9, 95% confidence interval 1·1–56·2) was significantly associated with illness.

seaweed-saladSimilarly, a case-control study of students at school B showed that cases were 5·1 (95% confidence interval 1·1–24·8) times more likely to have eaten seasoned green seaweed with pears. Multiple norovirus genotypes were detected in samples from students in schools A and B. Norovirus GII.6 isolated from schools A and B were phylogenetically indistinguishable. Green seaweed was supplied by company X, and norovirus GII.4 was isolated from samples of green seaweed.

Green seaweed was assumed to be linked to these outbreaks. To our knowledge, this is the first reported norovirus outbreak associated with green seaweed.

First norovirus outbreaks associated with consumption of green seaweed (Enteromorpha spp.) in South Korea

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 143 / Issue 03 / February 2015, pp 515-521

J.H. Park, H.S. Jeong, J.S. Lee, S.W. Lee, Y.H. Choi, S. J. Choi, I.S. Joo, Y.R. Kim, Y.K. Park, and S.K Youn

33 S. Korean students sickened with E. coli O157:H45 linked to tuna bibimbap

Background: In May 2013, an outbreak of gastroenteritis occurred in a high school in Iuncheon, South Korea. We investigated the outbreak in order to identify the pathogen and mode of transmission.

tuna bibimbapMaterials and Methods: A case–control study was performed using standardized questionnaires with a case definition of illness with diarrhea. Stool samples, environmental samples, and samples from preserved food items were collected to test pathogens. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was performed on the outbreak-related Escherichia coli strains.

Results: Thirty-three people (attack rate: 2.5%) met the case definition, and the pattern of the epidemic curve suggested a point-source outbreak. The common symptoms of cases were diarrhea (100.0%), abdominal pain (75.8%), chills (45.5%), and nausea (39.4%). Cases were found to be 8.26 times more likely to have eaten spicy fish soup with cod (95% confidence interval: 1.05–65.01). Consumption of egg soup with spring onions or braised eggs with razor clam flesh was significantly associated with illness. Atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157:H45 was isolated from samples of 9 cases (27.3%) and tuna bibimbap. PFGE patterns of all tested isolates of O157 serotype were indistinguishable.

Conclusions: This outbreak was caused by atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157:H45 and the food vehicle was suspected to be tuna bibimbap. The statistical analysis was not in concordance with the microbiologic tests, probably owing to low pathogenicity of atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157. This is the first report of an outbreak caused by atypical enteropathogenic E. coli O157.

Dog meat fades in S. Korea

The USA Today today reports that for more than 30 years, chef and restaurant owner Oh Keum-il built her expertise in cooking one traditional South Korean delicacy: dog meat. her twenties, Oh traveled around South Korea to learn dog meat recipes from each region. During a period of South Korean reconciliation with North Korea early last decade, she went to Pyongyang as part of a business delegation and tasted a dozen different dog dishes, from dog stew to dog taffy, all served lavishly at the Koryo, one of the North’s best hotels.

She adapted famous dishes to include dog meat, replacing beef with dog in South Korea’s signature meat and rice dish bibimbap. But the 58-year-old’s lifelong experience with a food eaten for centuries in Korea is about to become history.

Daegyo, the famous dog meat restaurant she opened in a Seoul alley in 1981, will serve its last bowl of boshintang, or dog stew, on Friday, a reflection of the challenges facing a trade that is neither legal nor explicitly banned under South Korean laws governing livestock and food processing.