20 firefighters sickened with cryptosporidium after rescuing calves in barn fire

We have a hockey friend near Guelph who is forever creating News-of-the-World type drama to keep his mates entertained. Like the girlfriend who held his cat hostage in a bar; missing hockey because he fell off a roof, and having his tractor spontaneously combust and burn his father’s Lincoln SUV also parked in the barn.

This summary from the Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report didn’t involve our hockey friend, but could have.

On June 6, 2011, a fire occurred in a barn housing approximately 240 week-old calves. A total of 34 firefighters responded from three Michigan fire stations and one Indiana fire station. Local hydrant water and onsite swimming pond water were used to extinguish the fire.

On June 20, 2011, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security notified the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) of an Indiana fire station that reported gastrointestinal illness among a substantial percentage of their workers, causing missed workdays and one hospitalization as a result of cryptosporidiosis.

All ill firefighters had responded to a barn fire in Michigan, 15 miles from the Michigan-Indiana border on June 6; responding firefighters from Michigan also had become ill. ISDH immediately contacted the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) concerning this outbreak. The investigation was led by MDCH in partnership with ISDH and the Michigan local health department (LHD). Among 34 firefighters who responded to the fire, 33 were interviewed, and 20 (61%) reported gastrointestinal illness ≤12 days after the fire.

Cryptosporidium parvum was identified in human stool specimens, calf fecal samples, and a swimming pond. Based on these findings, the following public health recommendations were issued: 1) discontinue swimming in the pond, 2) practice thorough hygiene to reduce fecal contamination and fecal-oral exposures, and 3) decontaminate firefighting equipment properly. No additional primary or secondary cases associated with this exposure have been reported. The findings highlight a novel work-related disease exposure for firefighters and the need for public education regarding cryptosporidiosis prevention.

The complete report is available at:

25 Chicago students arrested for a middle-school food fight

The cafeteria food fight, as immortalized in the 1978 film, Animal House, has become a high school rite of passage.

Except in Chicago (home to John Belushi, right)

The New York Times reports this morning that 25  students, ages 11 to 15, were rounded up, arrested, taken from school and put in jail on charges of reckless conduct, a misdemeanor, after a food fight at the middle-school campus of Perspectives Charter Schools, in the Gresham neighborhood on the South Side.

That was last Thursday afternoon. Now parents are questioning what seem to them like the criminalization of age-old adolescent pranks, and the lasting legal and psychological impact of the arrests.

“My children have to appear in court,” Erica Russell, the mother of two eighth-grade girls who spent eight hours in jail, said Tuesday. “They were handcuffed, slammed in a wagon, had their mug shots taken and treated like real criminals.”


Katie’s stuck in Chicago, my book chapter is overdue, and the house next door is on fire

The Flintstones were a cultural milestone for kids like me and those who believe that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

In one particular episode, Barney and Fred join Joe Rockhead’s volunteer fire department as a cover for the dance lessons they are taking so they do not humiliate themselves at the charity ball.

Betty and Wilma eventually realize that the all-stone town of Bedrock is fire proof. The wives then suspect that their husbands are slipping out to meet other women.

It’s like that in Manhattan (Kansas). I love the limestone rock that is the cornerstone of many of the buildings in town, including our own house.

The house next door is made of plaster or something and houses students who drive too fast down our dead-end road.

That house now has a hole in its roof.

It seems like the entire Bedrock volunteer fire department was out tonight after the students next door called in a fire. One of the kids said it was an electrical short. Katie called me, stranded in Chicago, and said it was probably a grow-op or crack den. Whatever it was, there were 30 firefighters working on this house for the last couple of hours. They had ladders, chainsaws, groovy duds, and a lot of them had moustaches.

Meat served at firefighter’s fundraiser source of E. coli O157:H7; sickens 27

Pamela Sage told California’s Contra Costa Times that it’s hard to believe tri-tip served at a Sept. 6 benefit barbecue to support volunteer firefighters made at least 27 people sick with E. coli O157:H7.

Sage said if the bacteria really did come from the meat or other food served at the event, she and the other firefighters would be glad to take responsibility for it, but the meat was handled with great care, meat thermometers were used to ensure it was done, and it was served with tongs. Sage also said the Public Health Department had acted irresponsibly in identifying the tri-tip as the source of the bacteria when officials still weren’t sure.

That was two weeks ago.

On Monday, Butte County Public Health confirmed that E. coli O157:H7 grown form leftover samples of the tri-tip meat were a genetic match with samples from sick people.

Epidemiology remains a powerful tool.

Dr. Mark Lundberg, Butte County health officer said it’s still not known how the cooked meat became contaminated, and it may never be known.

Food preparers at the event had the right equipment and, according to interviews, seemed to do everything right, he said, but obviously something went wrong.

When large amounts of food are prepared there is the potential for contamination, he said. It’s possible the cooked meat came into contact with juices from the raw meat. Or possibly, he said, someone who helped prepare the food was sick and didn’t wash his or her hands properly.

Bill Marler says an intact cut like tri-tip could became contaminated during the tenderizing process.

E. coli toll linked to firefighter fundraiser in Calif. grows to 13

Butte County Health Officer Dr. Mark Lundberg said Thursday that the number of cases of E. coli amongst the 300 or so who attended a barbecue fundraiser Sept. 6 in Forest Ranch to benefit the volunteer fire department has grown to 13.

Action News reports,

One of the infected is a 6-year-old girl named Olivia.  She and her family have been sick for several days.  They learned of the E.coli outbreak on Action News at Eleven Wednesday night.  Thursday afternoon, Olivia was airlifted to U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento where she will be cared for in the pediatric intensive care unit.  Her family says she was diagnosed with kidney decline, which could lead to kidney failure.

Olivia’s mother, Kimberli Titus says she, her daughter and her mother have made three trips to the emergency room this week.  They have been extremely sick, and until seeing the story on Action News, they couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  "She’s weaker, and weaker every day and she can’t even lift her head.  And she does not feel well."

The food for the BBQ was purchased from Cash-N-Carry in Chico. 

Health officials are still trying to determine what food made people sick. Among items on the menu at the barbecue were chicken, potato salad, beans, hot dogs, veggie burgers, chips and tri-tip, he said. People who became ill are being asked what they ate at the fundraiser.