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?

 

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: New virus breaks the rules of infection

Michaeleen Doucleff of North Carolina Public Radio writes that human viruses are like a fine chocolate truffle: It takes only one to get the full experience.

283615-virusAt least, that’s what scientists thought a few days ago. Now a new study published Thursday is making researchers rethink how some viruses could infect animals.

A team at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases has found a mosquito virus that’s broken up into pieces. And the mosquito needs to catch several of the pieces to get an infection.

“It’s the most bizarre thing,” says Edward Holmes, a virologist at the University of Sydney, who wasn’t involved in the study. It’s like the virus is dismembered, he says.

“If you compare it to the human body, it’s like a person would have their legs, trunk and arms all in different places,” Holmes says. “Then all the pieces come together in some way to work as one single virus. I don’t think anything else in nature moves this way.”

Most viruses have simple architecture. They have a few genes — say about a half-dozen or so — that are packaged up into a little ball, 1/500th the width of a human hair.

“You can think of it like a teeny-weeny tennis ball with spikes,” Holmes says.

When the virus infects a cell, the ball latches onto the cell’s surface, opens up and pops its genes into the cell.

Poof! The cell is infected. That’s all it takes. One ball, sticking to one cell.

But that’s not the case for the Guaico Culex virus. It has five genes. And each one gets stuffed into a separate ball. Imagine five tennis balls, each with a different color: a red tennis ball, a blue one, a green one, a yellow one and an orange one.

Then to get infected with the virus, a mosquito needs to catch at least four different colored balls, researchers write in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. Otherwise the infection fails.

“The fifth ball seems to be optional,” says Jason Ladner, a genomicist at USAMRIID, who helped discover the virus. Getting the fifth one could control how dangerous the virus is, he says.

Ladner and his team found the virus inside a Culex mosquito found in Guaico, Trinidad — hence the name of the virus, Guaico Culex. Culex mosquitoes are common across the U.S. and spread West Nile Virus.

The study is part of a larger project aimed at figuring out what viruses, in addition to Zika and yellow fever, could be lurking inside mosquitoes and possibly waiting to spill over into people.

Indeed, each year, scientists are finding thousands of new viruses, says Vincent Racaniello, at Columbia University. “It’s hard to put a number on it. But it’s huge.”

“We finally have the tools to find them,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean we can immediately understand what they do, or even whom they infect.

“There’s so much we don’t know about viruses,” Racaniello adds. And with viruses, really anything is possible. “We should always expect the unexpected,” he says.

 

I miss my hot tub, I miss my sauna, I don’t miss the viruses

From August to September 2014 a water quality study was conducted on five popular public Danube beaches in Vojvodina, Serbia.

serbia.beach.waterTo assess the safety of Danube water for bathing, physical, chemical, bacteriological tests were performed. While many parameters for monitoring the quality of water are regulated by law, there are neither national nor international legislations addressing the presence of viruses in recreational waters. In this study, we performed analyses that surpassed national requirements, and investigated if adenovirus, enterovirus or rotavirus genetic material was present in samples of recreational water collected for quality monitoring.

Of 90 water samples obtained during the study, enterovirus material was not found in any sample, but adenovirus and rotavirus genetic materials were respectively detected in 60 and 31 samples. Statistical analyses showed a significant correlation between adenovirus DNA and total coliforms in the water. Even when water samples were adequate for recreational use, adenoviruses were detected in 75% (57/76) of such samples. Our results indicate that implementation of viral indicators in recreational water might be helpful to better assess public health safety. This might be particularly relevant in areas where urban wastewater treatment is insufficient and surface waters affected by wastewater are used for recreation.

Testing For Viral Material In Water Of Public Bathing Areas Of The Danube During Summer, Vojvodina, Serbia, 2014

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 15, 14 April 2016

A Jovanović Galović, S Bijelović, V Milošević, I Hrnjaković Cvjetkovic, M Popović, G Kovačević , J Radovanov, N Dragić, V Petrović

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=21441

It’s not the curves, it’s the oxygen groups: Viral attachment to produce

In an effort to understand and eventually reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses, University of Illinois researchers studied the ability of pathogenic viruses to adhere to fresh produce surfaces.

lettuce“We chose 24 of the most common salad vegetables in the U.S. and assayed them to see if there was any relationship between the morphology and chemistry of the leaf or fruit surface and the adherence of viral particles, before and after a washing treatment,” says U of I geneticist Jack Juvik.

The researchers inoculated leafy salad greens and tomatoes with a swine virus that mimics human rotavirus, a common pathogen responsible for diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. After exposing the vegetable surfaces to the virus, the researchers rinsed the vegetables twice with a standard saline solution.

“We correlated virus adherence to roughness of the surface at different scales. We also looked at the chemistry of the proteins and waxes associated with the leaf cuticle – a waxy layer that protects the plant against diseases and reduces water loss,” Juvik explains. “Before this, no one had tested the relationship between chemistry and surface texture on the adherence of virus particles.”

The researchers found a thousand-fold difference in the number of viral particles adhering to different types of leafy greens and tomatoes. Vegetables with three-dimensional crystalline wax structures on the leaf cuticle harbored significantly fewer virus particles after rinsing. This was counterintuitive, as it was expected that small virus particles could “hide” in the rough structures of these cuticles.

lettuce.nov10“I was surprised, too,” Juvik says. “But normally, viruses adhere to oxygen groups, like OH, which are associated with proteins and carbohydrates on the surface. When the wax completely covers the surface, it becomes totally hydrophobic, which renders the whole leaf surface harder for viruses to attach to. Furthermore, rinsing those leaves with water gives the viruses the OH groups they’re looking for, so they’re easier to wash away.”

Produce is exposed to viruses and other pathogens in a number of ways, including contaminated irrigation water, animal wastes, and handling by sick workers. But because salad vegetables are consumed fresh, pathogens cannot be killed by cooking or most other sterilization methods.

“Viruses are literally everywhere, causing many opportunities for infection. But the information from this study can be used down the road to select or breed for varieties that might have the capacity to reduce adherence of these particles,” Juvik explains.

The researchers have already repeated the study using the bacterium E. coli, but they plan to look at even more vegetable varieties and pathogens in future studies.

The article, “Influence of epicuticular physiochemical properties on porcine rotavirus adsorption to 24 leafy green vegetables and tomatoes” was published in PLOS One. The study was led by Lu Lu, whose co-authors included Juvik, Kang-Mo Ku, Sindy Paola Palma-Salgado, Andrew Page Storm, Hao Feng, and Thanh Nguyen, all from the University of Illinois. The project received funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Foodborne viruses in fresh produce

Norovirus (NoV) and hepatitis A virus (HAV) are the most important foodborne viruses. Fresh produce has been identified as an important vehicle for their transmission.

foodborne.virus.produceIn order to supply a basis to identify possible prevention and control strategies, this review intends to demonstrate the fate of foodborne viruses in the farm to fork chain of fresh produce, which include the introduction routes (contamination sources), the viral survival abilities at different stages, and the reactions of foodborne viruses towards the treatments used in food processing of fresh produce. In general, the preharvest contamination comes mainly from soli fertilizer or irrigation water, while the harvest and postharvest contaminations come mainly from food handlers, which can be both symptomatic and asymptomatic. Foodborne viruses show high stabilities in all the stages of fresh produce production and processing. Low-temperature storage and other currently used preservation techniques, as well as washing by water have shown limited added value for reducing the virus load on fresh produce. Chemical sanitizers, although with limitations, are strongly recommended to be applied in the wash water in order to minimize cross-contamination. Alternatively, radiation strategies have shown promising inactivating effects on foodborne viruses. For high-pressure processing and thermal treatment, efforts have to be made on setting up treatment parameters to induce sufficient viral inactivation within a food matrix and to protect the sensory and nutritional qualities of fresh produce to the largest extent.

Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety

Dan Li, Ann De Keuckelaere and Mieke Uyttendaele

UK version: Viruses in the food chain

In 1994, in response to the outcomes of a joint Advisory Committee of Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) and Steering Group on the Microbiological Safety of Food (SGMSF) meeting, a Working Group was set up to investigate the science and epidemiology of Foodborne Viral Infections.

virus.foodThe Working Group assessed the risk from viruses that were believed to be the primary cause of foodborne illness. This report provides an update to this information and provides a new focus on the viruses which are currently the major route of foodborne illness. Since the publication of the 1998 report, with the exception of two minor risk assessments on hepatitis E and avian influenza, no formal review on viruses had been performed by the ACMSF. It was decided that as significant developments had been made not only in the detection of foodborne viruses, but also in the amount of information obtained from the Infectious Intestinal Disease (IID) Study in England (published in 2000), which indicated a significant disease burden from enteric viruses in the community, it was important that an Ad-Hoc Group was convened to revisit these issues and to provide an update to the 1998 risk assessment.

The FVI Group first met to begin their consideration in November 2010. Over 32 months, the Group met thirteen times to discuss all aspects of viruses in the food chain from farm to fork. As a starting point for the report, the Group reviewed the recommendations from the 1998 report and gave consideration as to whether these had been adequately addressed or were still relevant. At the same time the recommendations from the 2008 World Health Organisation (WHO) Viruses in Food: Scientific Advice to Support Risk Management Activities Matrix and CODEX Criteria, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Scientific Opinion on an update on the present knowledge on the occurrence and control of foodborne viruses were reviewed.

Using this information along with data on disease burden in the community and outbreak data (from IID and IID2) the Group agreed the scope of the report and what viruses would be its main focus. It was decided that that due to their potential impact and the paucity of data in this area, norovirus, hepatitis E and hepatitis A would be the main focus of the report, although many of the recommendations would also be applicable to other enteric viruses.

During its consideration, the Group reviewed available data on commodities contaminated at source, i.e. bivalve shellfish, pork products and fresh produce and reviewed data on risks associated with infected food handlers. Environmental contamination was reviewed with consideration given to testing methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), person-to-person transmission and food handlers. The Group also considered the engagement with industry and other Government departments (OGDs) regarding environmental conditions of shellfish waters and its impact on norovirus.

A review of data on issues regarding food contact surface contamination, including survivability and persistence was considered along with options for control at all stages of the food chain e.g. thermal processing, storage etc. The thermal stability of hepatitis E was considered with data presented on the increasing occurrence of the disease particularly in older UK males and the recent case control study on the association with processed pork products.

In order to obtain sentinel data the group investigated the important issue of knowledge gathering and surveillance data regarding foodborne viruses. The current limitations of the data were discussed along with what type of data was needed to provide more useful/accurate information on foodborne virus outbreaks. This review included looking at outbreaks from an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) perspective and how they prioritise what they investigate and the data they collect.

Finally, the group reviewed the consumer perspective on risk. This included looking at how risk is presented and information distributed, as this was likely to impact on any future risk assessment.

Within the report the Group has endeavoured to prioritise the recommendations by separating these into those that will inform risk assessments and those that will impact on risk assessments. Full details are provided in the report; however, key recommendations include:

A better understanding of ‘foodborne viral disease’ (Chapter 3) is required by investigating the correlation between infective dose and genome titre. Molecular diagnostics, typing and quantification should also be used to better understand the burden of virus contamination in foodstuffs. Work is also recommended to develop the methods used to assess norovirus and hepatitis E infectivity in food samples. This would better inform surveys and could potentially be applied to routine monitoring.

Improved ‘routine surveillance and investigation of foodborne viruses’ (Chapter 5) is required with Government agencies developing a single integrated outbreak reporting scheme. A joined up approach that would also involve the annual consolidation of records would reduce the chance of underreporting outbreaks. Further to this, reliable methods for norovirus whole genome sequencing should be developed to enable virus tracking and attribution.

More research on the ‘contamination of food’ (Chapter 6) through sewage contamination is recommended. In particular work should investigate the effectiveness of sewage treatment processes in reducing norovirus concentrations, including the use of depuration on shellfish species and disinfection treatments. Similarly, research is needed to identify the most effective means of decontaminating ‘fresh produce’ post-harvest (Chapter 7).

With the emerging risk of hepatitis E in pigs, the Group recommends work is undertaken to investigate the heat inactivation of hepatitis E in ‘pork products’ (Chapter 8). Research on the effect of curing and fermentation on hepatitis E in pork products is also recommended.

The full list of conclusions and recommendation are presented at the end of each subject area and are consolidated in Chapter 12 for ease of reference.

The assessments made and conclusions reached by the Group reflect evidence oral and written drawn from the scientific community, Government departments and Agencies, EFSA and the scientific literature. The Group’s full conclusions, identified data gaps and recommendations are brought together at the end of this report. The ACMSF accepts full responsibility for the final content of the report.

173 sick: Swedish school suffers vomiting bug outbreak

As the annual winter vomiting bug season starts to kick in it’s the Tofta high school in the south which is bearing the brunt of it so far. 

vomit.2In total 173 people who attend or work at the school have been affected by the bug. Even the headmaster hasn’t been spared.

“It struck last Friday but now I’m back at work,” headmaster Tobias Fahlén told the Expressen newspaper.

Parents reported that the bug began to take hold on Friday, with many stating that their children began vomiting uncontrollably. Several have asked the school to investigate the outbreak which has led to deserted classrooms.

As a result the school has now got in contact with the disease control centre in nearby Malmö. The centre advised the school to do some extra cleaning in the toilets and school kitchen to help combat the vomiting bug.

An epidemiologist with the disease control centre who is working with the school said it was most likely a vomiting bug that was ravaging the school, and not food poisioning as some parents had suspected.

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: Viruses help keep the gut healthy

Drunken graduate student discussions about the role of viruses in human development have taken on new importance now that researchers studying mice have shown that a virus can help maintain and restore a healthy gut in much the same way that friendly bacteria do.

kellysheroes2t1oddballThe work “shows for the first time that a virus can functionally substitute for a bacterium and provide beneficial effects,” says Julie Pfeiffer, a virologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who was not involved with the study. “It’s shocking.”

Our bodies are mostly microbes, with each of us hosting a hundred trillion bacteria as our so-called microbiome. These bacteria appear to play a role in everything from our weight to our allergies. But viruses also lurk in and around those bacteria—and they vastly outnumber the microbes.

Like the microbiome, this “virome” may be important for human health. One recent study, for example, found that viruses that are abundant in saliva may weed out harmful bacteria. Kenneth Cadwell, a virologist at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, wanted to know what viruses in the gut might be doing. In particular, he was interested in a group called noroviruses. Although they are notorious for causing epidemics of diarrhea on cruise ships and disease in lab mouse colonies, some noroviruses infect mice with no ill effects.

Reminds of this scene from 1978’s Animal house, but I could only find the clip in this other language.

Nanotube fabric with the power to ward off pathogens

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been crafting a high-tech fabric for the military made out of tiny carbon nanotubes — hollow structures that stay breathable in hot weather yet are small enough to block out pathogens. For an extra layer of safety, they’re planning to add a special coating that will block out even the smallest toxins, such as anthrax spores and other chemical and biological warfare agents.

The technology is still in the concept stages, but the research has already received funding from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency

Francesco Fornasiero, a chemical engineer at the Bay Area lab, told the Los Angeles Times, “We developed membranes which have pores that are made only of carbon nanotubes. These pores have walls that are extremely small. The smoothness of this wall and the hydrophobicity [ability to repel water] are together responsible for the extremely rapid transport rates observed for both gases and liquids.”

Virus strikes Illinois State football team

Pantagraph.com reports that more than 35 members of the Illinois State football team were stricken with a stomach virus this week that caused them to miss practice.

“The carnage ended up being about 50 people, coaches, trainers, players, managers. It was unbelievable. I’ve never been through that before,” said Coach Brock Spack. “But what doesn’t kill us makes us tougher and better.”

“Some of the volleyball players are sick. I’m hearing some other people on campus are sick,” Spack said. “I was one of the victims. It’s not a lot of fun. It’s pretty intense for about 24 hours.”