Irony can be ironic: 70 staff members ill after NM Department of Health luncheon

Andrew Oxford of The New Mexican reports that epidemiologists at the state Department of Health are investigating their agency’s own annual holiday luncheon after dozens of employees reported falling ill after the party last week.

barfAbout 70 staff members claim to have experienced gastrointestinal issues following the catered event at the Harold Runnels Building attended by more than 200 employees, according to a spokesman.

Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher wrote in an email to staff Monday that investigators have not identified a specific food from the party that may have caused the outbreak.

A team from the department’s Epidemiology and Response Division “believes that there may have been cross-contamination of menu items served during the luncheon,” she wrote.

Epidemiologists were still waiting for laboratory test results as of Monday, but Gallagher told staff the outbreak appears to have been caused by Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens, toxins that can cause foodborne illness.

“We will work to take appropriate steps to address food handling procedures with the caterer and prevent such problems in the future,” wrote, Gallagher.

Spokesman Paul Rhien said the event was catered by a local business, but he did not specify which one when asked by a reporter to identify the company.

6 confirmed sick: Crypto linked to raw milk in New Mexico

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Health are investigating cases of cryptosporidiosis among state residents.

napoleon-raw-milkThey say there have been six confirmed cases of “crypto” — a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites — since Aug. 31.

Each reported consuming raw milk products.

The affected individuals are from Bernalillo County.

Epidemiologists, laboratory staff and inspectors are working to confirm the source of the outbreak.

The state Department of Agriculture and New Mexico Environmental Department also are involved in the investigation.

Health Department officials recommend that anyone in New Mexico who has raw milk products discard the product to prevent infection.

New Mexico restaurant types on board with new food safety regulations

There are proposed changes coming down the line for New Mexico restaurants, regulations that impact how food is heated and training requirements for restaurant employees.

In a post on its website, the New Mexico Restaurant Association outlined some of the proposed changes by the New Mexico Environment Department.

For example, each restaurant must have a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM), a food safety certification achieved through taking courses and passing an exam.

Also new is that restaurant employees working directly with food, such as those that deal with unpackaged foods and food equipment, must take a basic food safety course. The course will cover such topics as preventing cross-contamination in food and how to property clean and sanitize.

After the course is completed, the person will get his or her Food Handlers Card, which would be required after 30 days of working in a restaurant. The cost to the employee will be between $15 and $35.

Christian duty to help, but better to prevent E. coli and HUS

A benefit roping was held Thursday night at the Roosevelt County Fair, New Mexico, for 2-year-old Melrose resident Eliza Dodd, who was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Eliza DoddHUS is an E. coli-related infection that involves loss of motor skills and kidney problems. Dodd arrived home from a 45-day stint at the children’s hospital in Fort Worth about two weeks before the benefit roping.

Event coordinator and roper Jarryd Burris said the event was an incredible success.

“It was excellent to make a significant difference in the lives of a really great family,” Burris said.

The event had over 300 teams, and between the stray gathering won by Jacob and Wesley Gudgell and the team roping, the event collected over $10,000 in donations for the family for medical costs. This surpassed Burris’ original goal of $6,000.

“We are hoping that amount should take the pressure off,” Burris said.

Eliza must receive soliris infusions every two weeks in Lubbock as well as take up to six medications a day.

She is still experiencing extreme fatigue, stomach issues and low kidney function, said Jana, but she has regained the majority of her motor function, speech and brain activity.

 “It is our Christian duty to help those in need,” Price’s daughter Mindy Oder said. “It’s the concept of doing unto others what you would have done unto you.”

I don’t like sushi: New Mexico health officials investigate Salmonella cluster

Amy and Sorenne made sushi the other day.

I don’t like it.

sushi-largeNew Mexico health authorities are investigating a cluster of salmonella cases in the Albuquerque area, including possible exposures linked to sushi.

The state Department of Health reports six confirmed cases between April 4 and May 1, with five of the six people having reported eating sushi containing raw fish.

According to the Health Department, federal agencies and other states also are investigating illnesses associated with the same salmonella strain.

All six New Mexico cases involve adults, including one who has been hospitalized. Five live in Bernalillo County and one lives in neighboring Sandoval County.

Two in New Mexico suspected to have botulism

One of the roles I inherited when I came to North Carolina is organizing the judges for annual home food preservation competition at the State Fair. I didn’t know a whole lot about preserving (other than the science) when I took over six years ago but I spent some time with experienced canners who taught me the hands on stuff.Botulism

Deviating from the prescribed steps can create the perfect environment for Clostridium botulinum spore outgrowth, germination and toxin production. Of the 20-30 cases of botulism in the U.S. every year, the majority are linked to improper home canning. It’s one nasty illness.

According to News West 9, two adults in New Mexico are being treated for symptoms that look like botulism.

The New Mexico Department of Health is cooperating with the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on an investigation of two patients who are hospitalized in Texas with suspected botulism. The source is currently being investigated but is likely contaminated food. The patients are two adults from Lea County.

Cantaloupe with listeria grown in Colorado, outbreak possibly linked to 3 deaths and 6 illness in New Mexico

Colorado health-types said today that the cantaloupe suspected in a listeria outbreak that has sickened at least 11 in Colorado, two in Texas and one in Nebraska and killed one, was grown in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.

Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said people at high risk for infection should avoid consuming cantaloupe, including people over 60, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.

New Mexico health officials also said today three people have died and six others are ill with listeria that preliminary testing has linked to contaminated cantaloupe.

Molecular fingerprinting tests at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are under way to determine if the cases are part of the same outbreak.

What isn’t clear from reports to date is whether the culprit is whole cantaloupe or fresh-cut – the stuff in the plastic containers at retail. Or maybe I missed something.

A table of cantaloupe- (or rock melon) related outbreaks is available at

Sssssssnakes source of sssssssssssssalmonella; mother charged with child abuse

Snakes shouldn’t be on a plane. And 50 of them shouldn’t be living with young kids (or anyone).

City officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, say three kids, ages 8, 6 and 2, along with their mother, were found on Monday living with more than 50 live snakes and some lizards.

A city public safety spokesperson called the conditions "deplorable," saying there was pet feces and urine all over the apartment. He also says the people inside were hoarders making it difficult for investigators to move around.

Animal Welfare officials say the snakes were being bred to be sold and were found in boxes.

Cages of mice and rats were also found in the apartment. Animal welfare officials say they were being used to feed the snakes.

CYFD investigators made the discovery after one of the children showed up at school smelling of urine. CYFD then checked out the apartment and found the animals.

City officials say the mother is charged with child abuse. The children are now staying with relatives.

Sell food from home in New Mexico, get a permit

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that a rule change will go into effect today that requires those who sell home-based food products to have a permit issued by the New Mexico Environment Department.

That permit will allow the sale of certain foods that can be prepared in home-based food processing operations within state jurisdiction. Those foods include yeast and quick breads, cookies, cakes, tortillas, high-sugar pies and pastries, high-sugar jam and jellies, dry mixes (made from commercial ingredients), candy and fudge. Those foods do not support the rapid and progressive growth of infectious and toxicogenic microorganisms, including Clostridium botulinium, responsible for foodborne disease.

The food permit costs $100 a year. To obtain a permit to operate, a seller can submit an application to a local NMED field office. The application package is available at or at your local NMED field office.

As Ben and Brae wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal back in March, 2006, leave the umpires in the field — the health inspectors who make sure everybody plays by the rules. In this game we need to get along so it doesn’t leave a nasty and sometimes lethal taste in the mouths of players or spectators.

Potluck again sickens hundreds; this time it was the home-prepared turkey; no biggie says New Mexico official

Barfing and crapping for days on end is not a minor issue; ask Chapman.

But Deputy County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter of Bloomfield, New Mexico, said that when 150 of the 300 county employees who attended a potluck last week at the County Administration Building became sick later that day,

"This really is a minor issue."

The suspected cause was a poorly prepared turkey.

The turkeys all were prepared at home by volunteers, but officials plan to change to a safer option for future events.

"In the future, the turkeys that we cook for our meal will be done at the correctional facility," Carpenter said.

The San Juan County Adult Detention Center prepares meals for hundreds of inmates and annual events, such as the annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal.

It is unclear what caused the illness, but officials believe it may be undercooked turkey.