Reducing the risk of illness from listeria after Tauranga, NZ cases reported

The New Zealand Herald reports Toi Te Ora Public Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are reminding the public of the recommended food safety measures to reduce any risk from the bacteria.

“Listeria is a bacteria that can occasionally contaminate food and cause illness which can be serious for those with poor immunity and also pregnant women,” Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Dr Neil de Wet said.

“Our investigations include determining what the cases may have eaten in order to identify any common risk factors or food that may be the source of infection.”

MPI compliance director Gary Orr said if there was a link identified between these cases and the food supply chain, immediate action would be taken to ensure public safety.

People who are at risk of more serious illness from listeria include pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborn babies, people with weakened immune systems and elderly people, especially if they have poor health.

While detailed investigations are underway and a source of infection for these recently notified cases is not yet clear, and often a source is not able to be identified for individual cases, it is a timely reminder that people who are in an at-risk group should avoid certain foods.

These foods include:
uncooked, smoked or ready-to-eat fish or seafood, including oysters, prawns, sashimi or sushi.
paté, hummus and tahini-based dips and spreads.
cold pre-cooked chicken.
processed meats including ham and all other chilled pre-cooked meat products including chicken, salami and other fermented or dried sausages.
pre-prepared, pre-packaged or stored salads (including fruit salads) and coleslaw
raw (unpasteurised) milk and any food that contains unpasteurised milk.
soft-serve ice creams.
soft, semi-soft or surface-ripened soft cheese (for example, brie, camembert, feta, ricotta, roquefort).

Live python found at NZ airport as border reptile seizures rise

live carpet python found at Queenstown Airport was one of at least six snakes seized at New Zealand borders since the start of last year.

A total of 110 reptiles were intercepted at ports and airports in 2019, up from 93 the year before.

Most of the intercepted reptiles were still alive.

And they are all Salmonella factories.

The carpet python, if established in NZ, could harm native food webs and ecosystems, according to an ecologist.

Introduced reptiles could also impact agricultural productivity and incur economic costs from expensive eradication efforts, according to research from Florida-based ecologist Dr Ikuko Fujisaki​.

Dozens of stowaway reptiles, including snakes, have been detected at container ports and wharves in the past year.

Burmese pythons established in Florida were now so prolific in the Everglades National Park, the state was hiring python removal agents.

Meanwhile, a dead flying snake, chrysopelea ornata​, was found on a New Zealand wharf this year.

Many of us go through a Doors phase, usually in university.

New Zealand deputy PM takes medical leave after food poisoning

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and man who thinks he looks cool, Winston Peters, said last Thursday he would take medical leave this week to undergo surgery after suffering from a bout of food poisoning.

“This is an unexpected medical event and of course unexpected timing. However the doctor’s advice on having surgery needs to be followed,” Peters, who is also the foreign minister, said in a statement.

No mention of causative agent.

There is so much beauty in the world: New Zealand edition

Beautiful, Emma (she of long-time carerrer of Sorenne back to Kansas days).

I’m looking forward to the end of Feb. when Canadian daughters 3 and 4 of 4 arrive for an Australian visit.
And Emma, you and partner are always welcome here.
There is so much beauty in the world.
And too many exclamation marks.

Mercier Kiwi Adventures


Samoa with Maria: Day 3

Posted: 08 Feb 2020 04:28 PM PST

On day three, we intended to hop on and off the bus to visit a variety of landmarks around Upolu. We had both done quite a bit of research on the Samoan buses and understood that they make a constant loop around the (basically circular) island, and there is no predicting when they will come, but if you hang out by the main road long enough, you can flag one down. Alright, simple enough. Well, when we told our Matareva hostess of our plans, she was horrified, saying we’d have to take at least three different buses in order to get to just the first of our several stops. Then she explained the we could sign up for their “Adventure Tour” which went everywhere we wanted to go, plus a lava tube. This was the first of many experiences we had in Samoa when someone seemed extremely helpful and knowledgeable about a system that didn’t made sense to us, but also their suggestions benefited them, so we while we wanted to trust them, it was hard to be certain. (The longer we spent in Samoa the more convinced we were that these people were too nice to mislead us, and I continue to believe/hope that that’s true.) In this case, the price for the tour was very reasonable, and fighting with multitudes of unpredictable buses sounded awful, so we decided to do it. And we’re so glad we did, because the tour was definitely a highlight of our trip, in ways that doing those things on our own, even if the bus plan had worked perfectly, would not have been.
We got in the van in the morning with a group of strangers, who by the end of the day felt like friends. We were accompanied by a man and two boys (perhaps 12 and 16) who were members of the family who owned Matareva Beach Fales. We assumed that the man was our tour guide, but soon found out that he didn’t speak English, and the two boys would be showing us around. They were hilarious and enthusiastic tour guides, with unorthodox but very entertaining methods, and I’m so glad we spent the day with them!

 

First we walked through some amazing native bush, with all kinds of incredible flora…
… to arrive at a lava tube. Our tour guides told us that it’s not on any websites or maps, but they’d like to make it more well-known in conjunction with their fales. It was too dark inside for pictures, but it was amazing in there, although extremely hot and humid (so much so that you could see the water in the air in the flashlight beams). There was also condensation on the walls, and when it beaded up on top of some kinds of lichen it glittered like gold. Our tour guides explained that people would shelter in these tubes (which are miles long) if there was a natural disaster, and showed us a grave deep inside it. They didn’t know the story of who the person was, but you can imagine hard times.

 

Next, we headed to Savaia, where there is a Giant Clam Sanctuary.
Having no underwater photo-taking ability, I am reduced to internet photos, but I can assure you that this is exactly what these clams looked like! Unbelievable, right? They are amazing! The ones that colour were mostly about 120cm (47in or almost 4 feet) long. And we learned that if you drop a rock on it, it will shut on it, then jettison it out with a jet of water! Click here for an underwater video around the sanctuary (apologies for the annoying music) and here for more information about endangered Giant Clams.

 

Also, bonus – sea turtles live there too! Unfortunately Maria and I were not together when another tourist pointed one out to me, so she didn’t get to see it, but I swam near it for several minutes, and it was amazing! There are places in Samoa that specifically advertise swimming with sea turtles, but they had mixed reviews on how happy the turtles were about coming into a confined space with people, so we decided not to go. But meeting this one in its natural habitat was so special!

 

Next, we headed to Togitogiga Waterfall.
(A note before I continue: In order for Anglophones to pronounce the Samoan ‘g’, it’s helpful to imagine that it has an ‘n’ in front of it, as it sounds much like the end of ‘ing’. So this waterfall is pronounced as if it was spelled Tongitonginga. I find this very cook, because keeping it in mind as I read Samoan made me much more able to find overlap between it and Māori.)
This beautiful waterfall was not only visually stunning but very adventurous (as promised by the tour name). We spent a little while swimming around the freezing water at the bottom (a welcome change from the heat of the day at first, but really too cold for extended enjoyment) and challenging ourselves to swim against the current to get near the bottom of the falls.
Then Walter, the younger of our tour guides, showed us how to climb up the side of the falls and where to jump into the pool. (This is a stock photo, as we were much too busy adventuring to take any.) On the left, you can see people jumping from one place we jumped from, but above them you can also see a little fence – we also climbed up and jumped from there. It was much more exhilarating, because you had to make sure to jump as far out as possible to make sure you cleared the lower ledge. It was not physically challenging to do so, but added an extra sense of adventure.
Our last stop of the day was to To Sua Giant Swimming Hole. Rather than regurgitating the information from this information panel, I thought I’d just include it – if you click on it, it should get big enough that you can read the words.
The whole area surrounding the swimming holes was very beautiful, although we explored very little. If we read the map right, this is the area where the lava tube connected to the swimming hole joins the ocean. Plus, look at that lovely little pool in the middle of the volcanic rock. Stunning.
This is the picture we took of the more open side of the lava tube. It was a bit overcast when we were there, for which we were very thankful, as it kept the temperature at a manageable 30C (86F), but it did mean that the colours of the water were a bit muted. It might also have kept some tourists away, because we were extremely lucky to find it mostly empty and ready for our exploration, whereas I’ve heard it can be quite busy.
Just for comparison’s sake, however, here is a photo of what it looks like under full sun.
This is looking back from the smaller of the two places where the roof of the lava tube collapsed. It was pretty exciting to swim through the tube part – I have a rather irrational fear of dark water, so I did take a deep breath or two before striking out into the tunnel, but it was worth it, and unsurprisingly, no sea monsters attacked me at all! Plus the view was amazing! So that’s a win for adventure.
This is looking down at that smaller pool from on top. I wish I could find a picture of looking up out of it, because seeing the light filtering down through all that lush greenery (and especially the ferns) was really special.
As I mentioned, the lava tube is connected to the ocean by an underwater section, so as the waves/tides roll in/out an enormously powerful suction is created. This causes an intense current within the swimming hole that changes direction rapidly every minute or so. There are ropes strung across the main section, and then one that you can pull yourself along to go through the tunnel. There is just enough of a threat in the idea of getting sucked into the underwater tube to get your adrenaline pumping, and this combined with the acrobatic potential of an underwater rope and a conveniently placed submerged rock results in some amazing playfulness, even in adults. By this time we had bonded with our fellow tourists and were ready to join together in all kinds of shenanigans and comfortable laughing with/at each other. This last bit was important, as we tested the limits of how far we could stray from the rope, how high we could balance on the rock, or which body parts we could link to the rope before the indomitable water inevitably returned us to our tightfisted grip on the lifeline. I think we all felt that we could do it forever and never get bored, but also realized fairly quickly that it was fatigue, not boredom, that would limit our adventures. What a workout! Walter again led the way in jumping from crazy heights (the exhilarating of the jump replaced immediately by the driving need to find the rope as soon as you hit the water), and then after that, we retreated to the car, exhausted but satisfied. Both of our young tour guides collapsed into the front seat in exhaustion, and were fast asleep by the time we got back to the fales. They’d made us laugh all day and shown us a truly amazing adventurous side to Samoa, and they deserved their rest.
The combination of adorable and entertaining guides, incredible sights, fantastic company, and invigorating adventure made this a day we will never forget!

Birds and Campy, New Zealand edition

Campylobacter jejuni, a leading cause of gastroenteritis worldwide, has been frequently isolated from recreational rivers and streams in New Zealand, yet the public health significance of this is unknown.

This study uses molecular tools to improve our understanding of the epidemiology and sources of Campylobacter in recreational waterways, with a view to preventing human infection.

Epidemiological and microbiological data were collected between 2005 and 2009 from six high-use recreational waterways in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of the North Island. Campylobacter spp. and C. jejuni were isolated from 33.2% and 20.4% of 509 samples, respectively. Isolation of Campylobacter was observed in both low and high river flows. After adjusting for the confounding effects of river flow, there was a significantly higher likelihood of isolating Campylobacter in the winter month of June compared to January. A high diversity of C. jejuni multilocus sequence types was seen, with the most commonly isolated being the water rail-associated ST-2381 (19/91 isolates [20.9%]), ST-1225 (8/91 isolates [8.8%]), and ST-45 (6/91 isolates [6.6%]). The ST-2381 was found in all rivers, while the most commonly isolated ST from human cases in New Zealand, the poultry-associated strain ST-474, was isolated only in one river.

Although the majority of Campylobacter sequence types identified in river water were strains associated with wild birds that are rarely associated with human disease, poultry and ruminant-associated Campylobacter strains that are found in human infection were also identified and could present a public health risk.

IMPORTANCE In 2016, there was a large-scale waterborne outbreak of campylobacteriosis in New Zealand, which was estimated to have affected over 5,000 people. This highlighted the need for a greater understanding of the sources of contamination of both surface and groundwater and risks associated with exposure to both drinking and recreational water. This study reports the prevalence and population structure of Campylobacter jejuni in six recreational waters of the Manawatu-Wanganui region of New Zealand and models the relationship between Campylobacter spp. and ruminant-associated Campylobacter and the parameters “sites,” “months,” and “river flow.” Here, we demonstrate that both low and high river flows, month of the year, and recreational sites could influence the Campylobacter isolation from recreational waters. The presence of genotypes associated with human infection allowed us to describe potential risks associated with recreational waters.

Campylobacter jejuni strains associated with wild birds and those causing human disease in six high-use recreational waterways in New Zealand, 2019

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Rima D. Shrestha, Anne C. Midwinter, Jonathan C. Marshall, Julie M. Collins-Emerson, Eve J. Pleydell, Nigel P. French

DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01228-19

https://aem.asm.org/content/85/24/e01228-19.abstract?etoc

 

Vaccines work: Diners at Christchurch eatery Madam Woo potentially exposed to hepatitis A

Hepatitis A outbreaks happen daily. I usually only report those where people are sickand food is involved.

But, ever since the Feb. 2011 earthquake that killed 185, and speaking with some of the public health first responders, I’ve got a soft spot for Christchurch, New Zealand.

Health authorities are searching for about 40 walk-in guests who ate at the St Asaph St restaurant on Wednesday January 15, and Friday January 17.

Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Ramon Pink said there was a limited timeframe – two weeks – where vaccinations could prevent someone with no previous immunity from developing the disease. 

People who dined on January 15 have until Wednesday, January 29 to get vaccinated, and those who dined on January 17 have until this Friday, January 31.

People are considered immune if they have already been vaccinated or have had hepatitis A. Those diners who are not immune are being offered an urgent hepatitis A vaccination.

Odours that cause barfing are expensive in New Zealand

A Waikato dairy processing company has been handed down the largest fine in the region for its recidivist dirty dairying behaviour.

Rural Life, one of my favorite bathtub magazines.

The offending by Open Country Dairy Ltd, based in Waharoa near Matamata, was so bad residents suffered dehabilitating effects – from closing the doors and windows to headaches and vomiting.

The company was convicted and fined $221,250 for discharging objectionable odour that caused significant impacts on the local community, and also unlawfully discharging wastewater, impacting on a local river.

Waikato Regional Council’s investigations and incident response manager, Patrick Lynch, said it was the largest fine imposed for any prosecution taken under the Resource Management Act in the Waikato region.

The prosecution followed “numerous complaints” from local businesses and residents of Waharoa through two periods in 2018.

Residents reported that there had been ongoing, persistent and objectionable odour.

In March 2018 the council discovered the odour issues were connected to the failure of the company’s wastewater pond liner. As a result, the Waitoa River was also contaminated.

“This is the fifth prosecution of this company, or its predecessor, relating to unlawful discharges into the environment,” Lynch said.

Arrest after NZ man escaped from Auckland police by pretending to vomit

Police have made an arrest after a man escaped from police custody last Tuesday.

Melanie Earley of Stuff reports 28-year-old Michael Luke Robertson allegedly fled from Avondale Police station on Tuesday morning by pretending he was about to vomit.

On Tuesday, Auckland City district commander Superintendent Karyn Malthus said officers were called to an incident where an unknown man was sleeping in a person’s vehicle.

He was taken back to the Avondale Police Station but fled while being taken from the police car into the station.

“Police gave chase however were unable to catch him and he was last seen running down a driveway on Great North Rd,” Malthus said.

On Thursday, police said a man was arrested about midday in connection to the incident.

NZ mussels at centre of food poisoning outbreak

Seafood lovers have been warned to be careful with raw mussels after an outbreak of food poisoning.

New Zealand Food Safety announced on Friday it’s seen an uptick in the number of people contracting food poisoning from Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Most of the people who got sick ate commercial grown mussels harvested in Coromandel.

“It is possible that the strain of vibrio parahaemolyticus is unusually aggressive, which may mean that even low numbers could cause illness,” NZ food safety director of regulation Paul Dansted said.

“Additional testing of mussels and the waters that they are being grown in is also underway to help us understand why this has happened.

“The mussels at the centre of the outbreak were all bought in their raw state, in the shell. They are not the mussels that can be bought in plastic pottles. Those mussels are cooked and marinated and are not affected.”

NZ Food Safety says people need to be careful when cooking mussels and heat them above 65C. It’s also advised to wash hands after handling shellfish, and avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked shellfish.

69 sick from Salmonella linked to raw sprouts in NZ

If there’s one food safety types will not eat, it’s raw sprouts.

Costco and Walmart stopped selling them five years ago in the U.S.

It’s impossible to get a sandwich or salad in Australia without sprouts.

I’ve written chefs who should not be serving raw sprouts to immunocomprised people in hospitals.

They poo-pooed my concerns.

According to Outbreak News Today there are 67 confirmed Salmonella cases and 2 probable cases linked to sprouts consumption in New Zealand.  Illness onset ranged from December 23, 2018 to April 1, 2019. 66 of the cases became ill between January 23, 2019 and January 25, 2019.  17 people required hospital treatment.

In the wake of the outbreak, GSF New Zealand recalled certain Pams, Sproutman, and Fresh Harvest brand sprout products.  GSF New Zealand said the recall was due to a “production process concern.” Regarding the Salmonella outbreak, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health reported that “Salmonella Typhimurium phage type 108/170 was the causative pathogen identified from cases, sprouts and spent irrigation water tested in this outbreak. Subtyping using Multiple Locus Variable-Number Tandem Repeat Analysis (MLVA) and whole genome sequencing methods were performed on isolates to confirm cases in the outbreak as well as the outbreak source.”