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.


People are sick: Michigan cheesemaker recalls 10 tons of organic product after STEC discovered

Jim Harger of MLive reports that Grassfields Cheese LLC, is conducting a recall of about 20,000 pounds of organic cheeses due to possible contamination with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Grassfields CheeseThe company is voluntarily recalling the cheeses “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a recall notice issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

“The potential for contamination was identified during an ongoing investigation of seven cases of human illnesses occurring between March and July 2016 caused by a same type of STEC,” according to the recall notice.

The department’s Geagley Laboratory confirmed the presence of STEC bacteria in a sample of Grassfields cheese collected by state food and dairy inspectors, according to the announcement.

The recall involves all types and sizes of organic cheeses manufactured by Grassfields between Dec. 1, 2015 through June 1, 2016 including: Gouda, Onion ‘n Garlic, Country Dill, Leyden, Edam, Lamont Cheddar, Chili Cheese, Fait Fras, Polkton Corners and Crofters. The cheeses were sold as wheels, half wheels, and wedges of various sizes.

grassfields-cheese-50b115a61d45e028a800028aThe recalled cheeses were sold from the firm’s retail store at 14238 60th Ave., Coopersville MI 49404, to wholesale and retail customers, and to consumers nationwide via sales through the firm’s website: http://www.Grassfieldsscheese.com/.

Owned by the same family since 1882, Grassfields Cheese switched from confinement farming to grass-based pasture farming in 1991. They added artisan cheeses and a farm store in 2002. And in 2007, they were certified as an organic dairy.

Cattle be shedding STECs

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is an important foodborne pathogen that can cause hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Cattle are the primary reservoir for STEC, and food or water contaminated with cattle feces is the most common source of infections in humans.

beef.cattleConsequently, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 1,096 cattle in six dairy herds (n = 718 animals) and five beef herds (n = 378 animals) in the summers of 2011 and 2012 to identify epidemiological factors associated with shedding.

Fecal samples were obtained from each animal and cultured for STEC. Multivariate analyses were performed to identify risk factors associated with STEC positivity. The prevalence of STEC was higher in beef cattle (21%) than dairy cattle (13%) (odds ratio [OR], 1.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.25, 2.47), with considerable variation occurring across herds (range, 6% to 54%). Dairy cattle were significantly more likely to shed STEC when the average temperature was >28.9°C 1 to 5 days prior to sampling (OR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.25, 4.91), during their first lactation (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1, 2.8), and when they were <30 days in milk (OR, 3.9; 95% CI, 2.1, 7.2). These data suggest that the stress or the negative energy balance associated with lactation may result in increased STEC shedding frequencies in Michigan during the warm summer months.

Future prevention strategies aimed at reducing stress during lactation or isolating high-risk animals could be implemented to reduce herd-level shedding levels and avoid transmission of STEC to susceptible animals and people.

STEC shedding frequencies vary considerably across cattle herds in Michigan, and the shedding frequency of strains belonging to non-O157 serotypes far exceeds the shedding frequency of O157 strains, which is congruent with human infections in the state. Dairy cattle sampled at higher temperatures, in their first lactation, and early in the milk production stage were significantly more likely to shed STEC, which could be due to stress or a negative energy balance. Future studies should focus on the isolation of high-risk animals to decrease herd shedding levels and the potential for contamination of the food supply.

Factors associated with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli shedding by dairy and beef cattle

Cristina Venegas-Vargasa*, Scott Hendersona,b, Akanksha Khareb*,Rebekah E. Moscib, Jonathan D. Lehnertb*, Pallavi Singhb,Lindsey M. Ouelletteb*, Bo Norbya, Julie A. Funka, Steven Rustc, Paul C. Bartletta,Daniel Groomsa and Shannon D. Manningb

aDepartment of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

bDepartment of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

cDepartment of Animal Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, August 2016, Volume 82, Number 16, Pages 5049-5056, doi:10.1128/AEM.00829-16


Family graduation party in Michigan sickens six

A graduation party in the Sturgis area is suspected of being the source of foodborne illness last weekend that affected six people.

diploma-cookiesAccording to Steve Andriaachi, environmental health officer for Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency, a member of the family with food service background catered the party. There has been no laboratory report completed yet regarding what caused the illness. Andriaachi said it is too early to release any details about the investigation.

BBQs work: Cooking squirrel with blowtorch to cost Michigan tenant $2M after complex gutted

A woman whose boyfriend sparked a 2012 apartment fire using a blowtorch on a squirrel is on the hook for $2 million in damages to the Holland Township complex, the Court of Appeals ruled.

grey.squirrel.eatWednesday’s ruling reverses a lower court decision that held Barbara Pellow responsible for only $15,400 in damages caused by the Oct. 10 blaze that consumed 32 units at ClearView Apartments.

The woman’s boyfriend, Khek Chanthalavong, had been using a blowtorch to remove fur from the squirrel on a wooden deck. Owners of the complex claimed cooking a squirrel on the deck violated her rental agreement.

Even though her boyfriend caused the fire, Pellow is still liable under a lease agreement for what justices described as a “fur-burning escapade.”

“Because defendant signed the lease agreement, she is presumed to have read and understood its contents,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Dozens of people at ClearView Apartments in Holland Township lost everything in the fire. Insurance carrier Travelers Indemnity Co. paid out more than $2 million to repair the damage.

The boyfriend left the torch on the deck and went into the apartment. When he returned 15 minutes later, he discovered the fire.

Michigan Carrabba’s outbreak confirmed as norovirus

Last week I was part of a panel with Aron Hall and Chip Manuel at the Food Safety Summit. For an hour and a half we talked burden, outbreaks, sanitizers, vomit and social media. The conclusion was there’s a bunch a noro in the U.S.; it sticks around for a long time in the environment; and, restaurants are a popular place for outbreaks. Like Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Delta Township, MI.635991863436297897-IMG-2401

The department announced the findings Wednesday afternoon, but it was not clear how many people were sickened in the outbreak. The agency said in a news release and on its Facebook page that more than 100 people became ill after eating at the restaurant over two days in May. But Greg Cabose, the agency’s community services supervisor, disputes the number of people stricken. He declined to give a total Wednesday, but earlier this week pegged the figure who became ill at closer to 30.

All of the people who were sickened ate at the restaurant on May 7 or May 8, the department said. Carrabba’s voluntarily shut down on May 10 after a visit from Health Department officials. The restaurant was cleared to reopen May 12 and there have been no sickness complaints since.

Michigan Salmonella infections rise after poultry contact

I didn’t know Michiganians was an actual word, but I’m sure Dr.-PhD-from-Ann-Arbor-and Tom-Brady-was QB-when-I-was-there-and-isn’t-he-dreamy will set me straight.

Ttom.brady.poultryhe Detroit News reports that more Michiganians are reporting salmonella infections after contact with live baby poultry, state health officials announced Monday.

There have been 20 cases of salmonellosis with live chick or duckling exposure reported throughout the state since March 2, but these numbers are expected to rise, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. Six people were hospitalized; the reported cases were associated with individuals ranging from younger than 12 months old to 70 years.

“Investigators from several local health departments with salmonellosis cases have visited the feed and farm stores to collect environmental samples for testing in jurisdictions where ill residents purchased baby poultry,” state officials said. “These environmental samples have been tested at the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories and a number of samples are positive for Salmonella; some of which match the outbreak strain. Testing and a traceback investigation are still in process. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been notified.”

People become infected with salmonella when handling poultry or their cages and coops. Germs can be found on the hands, shoes and clothing of those who handle the birds or work or play in areas where they live and roam. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing.

Norovirus confirmed in Michigan Applebee’s illness; 30 others with symptoms

Viruses are fascinating. A 27nm particle first isolated in 1978 from the poop of ill students and teachers at a Norwalk, Ohio school causes millions of illnesses a year by using a host’s cells to make more viruses.

And spread them to other hosts through projectile vomit and explosive diarrhea.

Sort of like what’s happening in Corunna, Michigan where 30 patrons of an Applebee’s are, according to MLive, sick with noro symptoms.

Applebee's Covington, TN Food Service;Stone;Carpet;Glass; Wood; Bar

The Shiawassee County Health Department confirmed the virus was responsible after a person became ill during the investigation period of March 9-12. The transmission source has not yet been identified.

“As of start of business day on March 22, 2016, a total of thirty people experienced similar symptoms and have contacted the Shiawassee County Health Department,” reads a statement from the health department’s Personal Health Services Division.

A call for comment from the restaurant was not immediately returned.

Nicole Greenway, director of personal community health for the Shiawassee County Health Department, said the restaurant is cooperating with the investigation and has fully sanitized the kitchen, bathroom and customer dining areas.

“We were notified by a person from the state who’d seen a complaint and we followed up on that,” she said, of the March 14 notification.

“Unfortunately it goes around, it’s very contagious,” said Greenway, referencing a recent norovirus outbreak at the University of Michigan that led to more than 100 people getting ill. “You can get it from touching a door handle or something like that. One public health message is to watch your hands. That’s a good prevention (tip).”

Uncle John’s Cider Mill in Michigan responds to positive STEC test (and doesn’t blame consumers)

In response to Tuesday’s reports of 1,200 gallons of cider testing positive for Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, Uncle John’s Cider Mill called it “the worst thing that has ever happened to us as a family business in 45 years.”

Uncle John’s Old Fashioned Apple CiderThey wrote:

Today when pondering what to post, we have two topics: test results or our gratitude. Most important to us today is our gratitude. Yesterday we were faced with the worst thing that has ever happened to us as a family business in 45 years. Our staff, friends and family all stepped up to help. They didn’t have to, but they did.

As we took the time to read our Facebook posts last night, our eyes swelled with tears over the support of the community and our loyal customers. …”

In a separate statement on the company’s website, Uncle John’s said they are working closely with the MDARD to find the cause of the positive E. coli test. As of now, no illnesses have been reported. Shiga-toxin producing E. coli was picked up by a “routine, random” sample collected by an MDARD inspector. 

Uncle Jonh’s opened as a cider mill in 1970 and is just north of Lansing on the way to Mount Pleasant on U.S. 127. 

Half of 3,700 issues in Michigan prison kitchens went unresolved by Aramark

Aramark and the Michigan Department of Corrections failed to address almost half of the approximately 3,700 issues with food safety, prisoner safety and prison security reported between March 2014 and October 2014.

aramark.mi.prisonThose findings were released in a report by Progress Michigan, a liberal group based out of Lansing, following their review of about 25,000 pages of emails between the MDOC and Aramark officials.

Lonnie Scott, director of Progress Michigan, said 3,707 issues with Aramark’s performance were reported during the eight-month period they reviewed. Of those 3,707 issues, 1,791 — 48.3 percent of those reported — were unresolved as of October 2014.

The controversial three-year, $145 million contract with Aramark was ended by mutual agreement last month. MDOC officials said the contract was terminated due to unresolvable contract issues, and not the onslaught of negative headlines about the contractor’s performance in Michigan prisons.

Trinity Services Group is currently in the process of taking over Aramark’s duties and will take full control of food service in prisons by September. The contract is set to run for three years and will cost taxpayers $158 million.

Hugh Madden, communications director at Progress Michigan, said the report shows unacceptable failures from both Aramark and the state’s contract monitors.

“I don’t know of any private restaurant that would want to put that on the door, that, hey, we solved 48 percent of the violations that were reported in our kitchens,” he said.