30 Helens and most of 635 epidemiologists agree: Stay at home for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, both the Canadian, in early October, and the American, today, the last Thursday in November.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has finally found a consistent voice and has recommendations to make #Thanksgiving safer. Bring your own food and drinks, stay at least 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often. Choose outdoor or well-ventilated spaces.

Most importantly, CDC and others strongly recommend to celebrate only with those you live with, and use virtual gatherings with others (I am exceedingly thankful for the electronic toys we have to help weather the pandemic; 1918 and the Spanish flu would have really sucked).

Of course, the current White House occupant is planning on hosting several parties throughout the holidays. Please ignore Trump et al. and listen to the science.

To that end, the N.Y. Times surveyed 635 epidemiologists and found that most are staying at home, and that those who are gathering with family or friends are taking precautions or rethinking their holiday rituals altogether.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving my American friends and colleagues, and be thankful that someone will live with you.

Australia has somewhat enviable statistics related to this pandemic and the lesson that America is only beginning to grasp is this: go fast, go hard and go smart to limit the spread of coronavirus or any illness.

Going public – Not: Michigan state epidemiologist didn’t publicly report Flint-area disease outbreak

Jeff Karoub of the Boston Globe reports Michigan’s former state epidemiologist acknowledged in a plea deal Wednesday that she was aware of dozens of cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area around the same time the city changed its water source, but that she didn’t report it to the general public.

corrinemiller_1473865031626_46311380_ver1-0_640_480Corrine Miller, the former director of disease control and prevention at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, faced three charges stemming from the investigation into Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis. She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor of willful neglect of duty in exchange for prosecutors dropping felony misconduct and conspiracy charges.

Flint switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River to save money in 2014. But tests later showed that the river water was improperly treated and coursed through aging pipes and fixtures, releasing toxic lead.

The plea agreement states that Miller was aware of the Legionnaires’ cases in 2014, and reported to someone identified only as ‘‘Suspect 2’’ that the outbreak ‘‘was related to the switch in the water source’’ after compiling data about the illness in Genesee County. No explanation is given in the plea deal as to why the cases weren’t publicly reported.

A definitive connection between the corrosive river water and Legionnaires’ has not been made, but many experts believe it probably was the cause.


This ain’t no CSI: tracking down foodborne illness

While others bitch, whine and moan — and armchair quarterback — about the investigation into the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul, Elizabeth Weise of USA Today decided to spend a couple of days in the shoes of an epidemiologist. Or two.

There are the pit bulls, chained and unchained. The scary-looking guy with bloodshot eyes. The 37 houses in a row with people who don’t want to talk. The trailers in the middle of the desert with only a TV watching over a couple of kids.

And that’s just the lede. Seriously, this is a great story.

Elizabeth Russo, 32, and Kanyin Liane Ong, 28, arrived in Albuquerque two weeks ago, one of three CDC teams sent to New Mexico to interview people who have become sick in the past few weeks. Their mission is to gather data to answer a troubling question: Why did the first surveys done of salmonella patients in New Mexico point so strongly to tomatoes when later cases seemed to implicate jalapeños?

Russo, a doctor, is one of 70 young scientists admitted each year to the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), a pre-eminent training ground for public health staff.

"This is applied public health," says Ian Williams, chief of CDC’s Outbreak Net Team, which tracks illnesses nationally.

"The way you learn is you go out in the field, and you do it in the trenches. …You can sit in your office and speculate all you want, but it takes people out in the field to really get to the bottom of it."