Families of babies who contracted E. coli sue UK hospital where staff did not wash their hands

Being a handwashing nerd, I kept a close eye on the staff at Manhattan’s Mercy General when daughter Sorenne was born 17 months ago.

They were watching me. Whoever was the control desk and let a new parent or visitor into the security-controlled maternity ward would insist people properly wash their hands before advancing any further.

Not so everywhere.

The Daily Mail is reporting tonight that furious parents are suing a hospital where two babies died during an E. coli outbreak after it emerged staff probably spread the infection by not washing their hands.

Thirteen newborn babies contracted an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bug at the neonatal intensive care unit of Luton and Dunstable Hospital in Bedfordshire.

An official report says widespread breaches of infection control measures, such as poor hand-washing regimes and equipment cleaning, were the likely cause.

The parents of two infants who became critically ill but survived the 12-week E. coli outbreak in October 2008 are seeking undisclosed sums from the hospital over the long-term health implications.

Colette Beard, 31, and her husband Greg, 28, said their son Lewis (above, right) suffered ‘permanent damage’ from the infection after he was born 15 weeks early on September 15, 2008. He spent four months recovering.

Shopping cart sanitation (and don’t let kids lick packages of raw meat)

Amy, Sorenne and I go grocery shopping fairly frequently. The 11-month-old is curious about everything, a trait I called the day she was born; she’s alert, curious and increasingly mischievous.

When she was strong and co-ordinated enough to sit on her with a seatbelt on the seat behind the handle, a battle of wills soon emerged as Sorenne would have her hands on the handle, then in her mouth, or worse, would try to suckle the handle.

At this point I become much more rigorous and consistent about using those sanitary wipes  to wipe down the shopping cart seat and handle.

In 2004, clear displays promoting shopping cart sanitation were novel. And this one from Phoenix (upper right) is far more dramatic and attention-grabbing than a small container nailed to a bleak wall beside the shopping carts, which is still the norm today.

But things are changing.

Last year, USA Today reported that supermarkets and other retailers that provide shopping carts are increasingly looking to limit germ exposure for customers and their families.???, making sanitary wipes more readily available and in some cases, installing a whole cart cleaning system like this one in Wisconsin (photo by Peter J. Zuzga, for USA TODAY)

The trend continues to grow. Newspuller Gonzalo was in the Manhattan (Kansas) Target store recently and snapped these shots (below).

Parents and caregivers also have to think like the bad bug: like, don’t give the kids packages of raw meat to play with or leave within reach. Olga Henao, an epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for disease control told USA Today last year that doing so triples the chance they may contract salmonella and quadruples it for campylobacter.

“Infants can become ill when they transfer bacteria from the packaging into their mouths.”


Botulism, babies and bad advice

Amy and I don’t really disagree about much. But we can each get moody and self-absorbed and go after each other. Especially at the end of 20-hour drives. That’s about how long it takes to go from Manhattan (Kansas) to Guelph (Ontario) and at the end of one epic journey back from Guelph two years ago, tired and driving through Kansas City with a trailer full of my crap that I just had to have in Kansas, Amy decided to entertain herself by asking me, who are you to publish an opinion, or something like that.

I’ve always thought that academic-types had a responsibility to share their knowledge in a compelling manner with the public, rather than just complain about people’s opinions of things scientific and otherwise. But really, who the hell am I? Why should anyone listen? Or care?

I questioned myself for a couple of months and didn’t do much public stuf. Then I got over it. But I still question myself and try to do my homework.

I’m not so sure about Dr. Dave in the video below.

This is from some mommy television show in Canada that Ben sent me. It’s called, The Mom Show. In the clip below, Dr. Dave, appears to have no clue about botulism in babies less than a year old.

Clostridium botulinum can cause sickness in very young children, and infants under the age of 1 years old are most at risk. Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can grow in the digestive tract of children less than one-year-old because their digestive system is less acidic. The bacteria produces toxin in the body and can cause severe illness. Even pasteurized honey can contain botulism spores and should be not be given to children under the age of 12 months.

The advice is clear: do not give any honey to children less than one-year-old.

But maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.


Bastards, bullshit and babies

I’m gonna drop the Food Safety Network name.

Just doesn’t seem to fit anymore.

Too many hacks and posers.

I started sending out news shortly after I began my PhD in 1993. Jack-in-the-Box had just happened, Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, but I was plugged in through the various twists and turns of life, and started sharing stories — in real time —  with my science-geek colleagues.

They seemed to like it, and research confirmed it was useful.

In 1993, food safety types were conditioned to reading about outbreak investigations when CDC’s MMWR arrived in the mail six months later. That’s still way faster than the Canadian government types write up any outbreak investigation.

I originally called the news distribution the Food Safety Network cause network was sorta new. Sure, it seems dated now, but at the time, we rocked. Now, it just rolls.

The whole idea of calling my lab the Food Safety Network rests with Lester Crawford. I wanted to create a group modeling Georgetown University’s Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (which has since moved). Lester spent a couple of days in Guelph, and told me, whatever you do, make it bigger than yourself. No one cares about Doug Powell’s lab. So give it a name. And bring in others.

So I did.

Unfortunately, due largely to my unfailing optimism, others went for the short game. In the spirit of open and honest collaboration, the University of Guelph went and trademarked Food Safety Network in Canada the day I resigned — and didn’t bother to tell anybody. Then they scooped up whatever money was left to cover the deficit in their paper clip fund.

The actions of so many have been small and petty. But there have always been a few that make it worthwhile.

Katija Blaine and Ben Chapman have both been with me in various capacities since 1999. Still are. We’ve traveled the various minefields of genetically engineered sweet corn and on-farm food safety programs for fresh produce, and now we’re all having babies.

Katija was first up on Saturday, delivering Cormac (right). Congrats to Katija and Jeff.

Ben and Dani and due in Sept.

And me — forever trying to hang out with the cool kids — me and Amy are due the end of November.

Got no time for posers.

Nothing will keep babies from pooping in pools — so ban babies

The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board came out against the Utah Department of Health’s recommendation of tight-fitting swim diapers and/or waterproof pants in its attempt to keep toddlers in public swimming pools, and the cryptosporidium parasite out.

The editorial says,

"Last year, after the outbreak, the state health department banned children under age 5 from public pools. It was a tough decision. But it was the right decision. …

"Swim diaper requirements will be difficult to enforce. And, unless the diapers
"waterproof" pants have elastic bands that are tighter than tourniquets, water-soluble fecal matter will still leak out.

"Public education won’t work either. It might keep adults from spreading the parasite by showering thoroughly and abstaining from swimming after battling diarrhea, but nothing, short of a cork or maybe duct tape, will keep babies from pooping in pools."

The editorial concludes,

"If state regulators don’t have the intestinal fortitude to ban babies from pools, local health departments should."