Widespread outbreaks of hepatitis A among persons who use illicit drugs (injection and noninjection) have increased in recent years. Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable disease.
What is added by this report?
During January 1, 2018–July 31, 2019, hepatitis A–related clinical costs among West Virginia Medicaid beneficiaries ranged from $1.4 million to $5.6 million. Among those with a substance use disorder diagnosis, costs ranged from $1.0 million to $4.4 million.
What are the implications for public health practice?
In addition to insight on preventing illness, hospitalization, and death, the results from this study highlight the potential financial cost jurisdictions might incur when Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations for hepatitis A vaccination, especially among persons who use illicit drugs, are not followed.
Estimated Medicaid costs associated with hepatitis A outbreak—West Virginia, 2018-2019
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Samantha J. Batdorf, MPH1; Megan G. Hofmeister, MD2; Tamara C. Surtees, MPH3; Erica D. Thomasson, PhD1,4; Shannon M. McBee, MPH1; Nathan J. Pauly, PhD5
More than 1.1 million people had already passed through the gates of the San Diego County Fair this summer by the time an E. coli outbreak forced the closure of all animal exhibits and rides.
News that a 2-year-old boy had died after picking up the particularly nasty infection, which was also contracted by three other children with animal contact at the fair, stirred alarm within the community. Many had already roamed the midway, stuffed themselves full of fair food and passed through the venue’s cavernous livestock barns en route to pig races, pony rides and the petting zoo.
Paul Sisson of The San Diego Union Tribune reports hundreds of emails and other documents obtained through Public Records Act requests show that, while the public health team was able to move quickly, more frequent county case reviews, a more modern medical records system and more prompt and accurate responses from families with infected children might have gotten the investigation started days earlier.
The decision to shut down the animal exhibits on June 29, records show, came after four days of a behind-the-scenes scramble by the county’s public health department. With one death already on the books, they decided to notify the public even though testing had not yet confirmed that all four of those first four cases had E. coli infections.
It quickly became clear those initial instincts were accurate. In the following weeks, an additional seven people, plus two more whose infections weren’t confirmed, came forward, including another young boy who nearly died after suffering severe complications that attacked his kidneys.
Records show that zeroing in on the fairgrounds was no simple task. Epidemiologists had to eliminate a broad range of possible locations, from restaurants to a busy daycare center, before they were able to zero in on the fairgrounds.
And there was plenty of other work that had to be done simultaneously. County records show that the department investigated 435 disease cases in June alone. Of those, there were 43 cases of shiga toxin-producing E. coli reported that month, forcing disease detectives to sift out the 11 eventually confirmed to be part of the outbreak.
Determining whether there are connections between cases requires interviews with each subject or their legal guardians. Depending on the type of pathogen involved, it’s a process that often relies on frail human memory to recall the finest possible details of possible exposure routes from foreign travel and foods consumed to places visited and close contact with others.
The investigative process doesn’t get started until the health department is notified, usually after a test result administered in a doctor’s office or hospital comes back positive.
Subjects often aren’t interviewed until weeks after they got infected because many infections have incubation periods measured in days or weeks and it usually takes time before individuals decide to seek medical attention and additional time for medical providers to make a diagnosis.
Often, those charged with reading these particularly fragile tea leaves learn to trust their instincts, and that was certainly the case with the fairgrounds outbreak.
Emails show that the county’s epidemiology team first began to suspect that it might have an outbreak on its hands on June 24, the day that 2-year-old Jedidiah King Cabezuela (right) was admitted to the intensive care unit at Rady Children’s Hospital with severe kidney problems.
While discussing his condition, an epidemiologist noted that the boy had visited the fair before he got sick. And, she said, the county had been notified just before Cabezuela’s death of another boy, this one 9 years old, who tested positive for the type of toxin produced by the E. coli strain causing so much difficulty for Cabezuela.
Though the 2-year-old and 9-year-old hadn’t eaten the same foods at the fair, and the older boy’s parents said he didn’t visit animal areas, the fact that both visited the same location was enough for the epidemiologist to suggest that the department “should at least keep an eye on” the 9-year-old, even though he never got sick enough to need hospitalization.
By Tuesday, June 25, the public health department received the news that Cabezuela died overnight, and that information pushed the team to begin a relentless search for similar shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections.
They quickly found a report of a 13-year-old girl who had a positive toxin test after visiting the fair on June 8. Her parents had told interviewers that she had contact with animals and had eaten fair food afterward without first washing her hands.
Another girl, this one age 11, had also had a positive test but her parents had not returned repeated calls for an interview. It would not become clear that she, too, had visited the fair and had contact with animals until her parents were finally reached on June 28, the same day that the county announced it would close all public animal exhibits.
Then there was the 9-year-old boy mentioned in that prescient June 24 email. His parents initially said that he had no animal contact at the fair, but in subsequent interviews those parents remembered that, yes, their son did visit the livestock barn when the family visited on June 13.
With three, then four cases all reporting food consumption and animal contact at the fairgrounds, food inspectors descended on five different food vendors who sold items that the kids reported eating and found no traces of E. coli contamination.
Food poisoning ruled out, officials concluded that the E. coli exposure was most likely down to animals and, with the cooperation of the fair board, shut down all public access to animal exhibits and rides on June 29. Testing never did pinpoint the exact source of contamination, though the fair’s petting zoo and pony rides were ruled out.
Once public health nurses do their phone interviews and build up as clear a picture as they can of the circumstances surrounding each individual case, epidemiologists can begin looking for patterns, keeping an eye out for clusters of patients in specific geographic areas or with other commonalities such as foreign travel or consumption of tainted food.
A timeline of the E. coli outbreak at the San Diego County Fair
May 31– San Diego County Fair opens
June 8 –11-year-old and 13-year-old girls visit fair
June 10 –13-year-old becomes ill
June 12 –11-year-old becomes ill after a second fair visit
June 13 – 9-year-old boy visits fair
June 15 – 2-year-old Jedidiah Cabezuela visits fair
June 16 – 9-year-old becomes ill
June 18 – Investigator call parents of 11-year-old, get no reply
June 19 – 13-year-old reports visiting animal areas at fair; Jedidiah becomes ill; county holds weekly analysis meeting
June 20 – Jedidiah admitted to Rady Children’s Hospital
June 21 – 4-year-old and 38-year-old who later test positive for E. coli infections visit fair
June 22 – Jedidiah diagnosed with severe E. coli infection; 6-year-old Ryan
Sadrabadi, 2-year-old Cristiano Lopez and his mother, Nicole Lopez, and another 2-year-old girl, visit the fair
June 23 – Family confirms Jedidiah visited fair’s animal exhibits; one-year-old girl later confirmed to have E. coli infection visits the fair
June 24 – Jedidiah dies from kidney failure; 9-year-old’s fair attendance confirmed, animal contact denied; County epidemiologist raises red flag about possible case cluster at fair; Nicole Lopez becomes ill, treated at Kaiser La Mesa
June 25 – County learns of Jedidiah’s death, begins exploring fair connections in depth
June 26 –Ryan, 2-year-old girl and 1-year-old become ill
June 28 – Family of 9-year-old revises statement, confirms visiting livestock barn; Family of 11-year-old confirms she visited sheep exhibit at fair; County announces E. coli cluster at Del Mar Fairgrounds; County inspects five food booths visited by first four cases, no E. coli found; Cristiano becomes ill
June 29 – County inspects all 160 food booths at fair, finds no E. coli contamination; All animal areas at the fair are closed; four-year-old becomes ill
June 30 – Ryan becomes ill diagnosed with E. coli infection
July 1 – 6-year-old’s case reported to county
July 2 – Cristiano admitted to Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center with worsening symptoms, diagnosed with E. Coli infection
July 3 – 2-year-old girl and 4-year-old’s cases reported to county
July 4 – Fair closes with an attendance that exceeds 1.5 million; Cristiano’s infection reported to county; Cristiano transferred to Rady Children’s Hospital, undergoes dialysis for hemolytic uremic syndrome that attacks his kidneys
July 6 – 38-year-old becomes ill
July 9 – 38-year-old’s infection reported to county
July 10 – 30-year-old’s and 1-year-old’s infections reported to county
July 29 – Three families file claims against fair board, alleging they weren’t properly warned of E. coli risk
July 31 – Environmental and animal testing fail to reveal a clear source of outbreak, but exposure in fair’s livestock barn deemed “likely”
Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions
Zoonoses and Public Health
G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman and D. Powell
Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the US caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.
Stool tests performed on those who are ill haven’t confirmed this diagnosis, but Director of Health Services Dr. Goldstein said that norovirus is “likely” the culprit of the students’ symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Resident Advisors on campus have reported 103 cases of students having contracted the debilitating stomach bug as of Wednesday evening, according to Goldstein, Director of Health Services.
Goldstein first notified the campus community about the virus in a campus-wide email sent Monday, Feb. 4 at 2:40 p.m., but didn’t name the illness as norovirus at that time.
Some students, however, felt this email did not come soon enough. Haley Matthes ‘19 voiced her frustrations and warned students to be aware of its spreading in a post in the Lafayette College Class of 2019 Facebook group on Feb. 2.
“I’m just tired of the school waiting for a campus-wide sickness to escalate to a point where they need to send out a bulletin [or] cancel classes,” Matthes said in a follow-up email.
Matthes was also upset that extended hours weren’t offered at Bailey Health Center.
Several students in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity have also had the virus. According to Mikey Burke ‘21, approximately 12 to 15 members of the fraternity had contracted the virus as of Tuesday, although he said he expected that number to grow.
“I think it just spread really quickly throughout the house, it originated there and spread to a lot of the brotherhood, I live in McKeen and only hung out at the [Phi Psi] house for a couple hours…and got sick,” Burke said in an email.
Bobby Longo ‘21, another Phi Psi fraternity member to have the virus, said he believed the email warning on Monday was “too late.”
“Norovirus is an extremely contagious stomach virus that spreads like wildfire. After the first or second case on campus we should have been notified… it ramps up as people go from class to class spreading it,” Longo said in an email.
According to Goldstein, his level of concern about the virus was raised when the health center began receiving phone calls and emails from concerned students and parents, as the health center was “not overwhelmed” by the number of students coming to Bailey about the virus.
Goldstein said he wanted to find a “sweet spot” of not raising a level of hysteria but also communicating with the students. He decided to send the campus-wide email more based on “the feedback from students,” Goldstein said.
“I think what’s happening is students are self-treating and getting through this without needing to see a provider, but the numbers are pretty significant on campus. The students communicating with me was a good thing,” he said.
According to Goldstein, reports from Resident Advisors and Bailey total a little over 150, but Goldstein said there may be overlap among these reports, if for example, a student both went to Bailey and reported their illness to their RA.
While Goldstein said that the discussion of the school closing “hasn’t happened yet,” he believes certain social gatherings will be cancelled if the virus continues spreading rapidly. One event, the Lunar New Year dumpling making party hosted by ISA and ACA, was cancelled on Tuesday as a result of the spreading sickness.
Abstract Published research on outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness has focused primarily on the results of epidemiological and clinical data collected postoutbreak; little research has been done on actual preventative practices during an outbreak. In this study, the authors observed student compliance with hand hygiene recommendations at the height of a suspected norovirus outbreak in a university residence in Ontario, Canada. Data on observed practices was compared to post-outbreak self-report surveys administered to students to examine their beliefs and perceptions about hand hygiene. Observed compliance with prescribed hand hygiene recommendations occurred 17.4% of the time. Despite knowledge of hand hygiene protocols and low compliance, 83.0% of students indicated that they practiced correct hand hygiene during the outbreak. To proactively prepare for future outbreaks, a current and thorough crisis communications and management strategy, targeted at a university student audience and supplemented with proper hand washing tools, should be enacted by residence administration.
A scenario-based survey was distributed via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to collect data from 1,034 respondents; the tally of valid responses was 1,025. Partial least squares-based structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) showed perceived vulnerability and perceived severity to be statistically significant; both also negatively affected customer intentions to patronize restaurants cited for serving foods that caused foodborne illness outbreaks.
Results suggest that type of restaurant is a significant moderator between perceived severity and customer intentions. The type of diner, however, based on frequency, does not moderate the relationships between perceived severity and perceived vulnerability and customer intentions to patronize restaurants that served food causing a foodborne illness outbreak (FBI).
Using protection motivation theory (PMT) (Rogers, 1975), this study’s findings contribute to understanding determinants and moderators of customer intentions to revisit restaurants after a foodborne illness outbreak.
Consumers’ return intentions towards a restaurant with foodborne illness outbreaks: Differences across restaurant type and consumers’ dining frequency
If you happen to visit a restaurant that tries to claim its romaine is safe, it’s really best to avoid the food. “I would send it back,” Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When the CDC comes out with a message that says ‘Don’t eat romaine lettuce,’ you should heed that advice,” he says. “Right now, we don’t have any indication that it’s romaine from any certain part of the country or a certain company. It’s a standing blanket statement.”
And now we’ve got more information (that’s how quickly this stuff moves).
FDA announced late today that they have narrowed their investigation to field grown Romaine from Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California.
All other lettuce is as safe as it was last week before the announcement.
FDA is taking things a step further, in a really positive way in concept – asking producers to label where it came from.
Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.
There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine lettuce that is certain to have been harvested from areas outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. For example, romaine lettuce harvested from areas that include, but are not limited to the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico, does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Additionally, there is no evidence hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine is related to the current outbreak.
During this new stage of the investigation, it is vital that consumers and retailers have an easy way to identify romaine lettuce by both harvest date and harvest location. Labeling with this information on each bag of romaine or signage in stores where labels are not an option would easily differentiate for consumers romaine from unaffected growing regions.
A single foodborne outbreak could cost a restaurant millions of dollars in lost revenue, fines, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premium increases, inspection costs and staff retraining, a new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.
The findings, which will be published online on Apr. 16 in the journal Public Health Reports, are based on computer simulations that suggest a foodborne illness outbreak can have large, reverberating consequences regardless of the size of the restaurant and outbreak. According to the model, a fast food restaurant could incur anywhere from $4,000 for a single outbreak in which 5 people get sick (when there is no loss in revenue and no lawsuits, legal fees, or fines are incurred) to $1.9 million for a single outbreak in which 250 people get sick (when restaurants loose revenue and incur lawsuits, legal fees, and fines).
Americans eat out approximately five times per week, according to the National Restaurant Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year due to food-related illnesses, which are often referred to as food poisoning.
For the study, the researchers developed a computational simulation model to represent a single outbreak of a particular pathogen occurring at a restaurant. The model broke down results for four restaurant types: fast food, fast casual, casual and fine dining under various parameters (e.g., outbreak size, pathogen, and scenarios).
The model estimated costs of 15 foodborne pathogens that caused outbreaks in restaurants from 2010 – 2015 as reported by the CDC. Examples of the pathogens incorporated in the model were listeria, norovirus, hepatitis A, E. coli and salmonella. The model ran several different scenarios to determine the impact level ranging from smaller outbreaks that may incur few costs (i.e., no lawsuits and legal fees or fines) to larger outbreaks that incur a high amount of lawsuits and legal fees.
“Many restaurants may not realize how much even just a single foodborne illness outbreak can cost them and affect their bottom line,” says Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at the Bloomberg School. “Paying for and implementing proper infection control measures should be viewed as an investment to avoid these costs which can top a million dollars. Knowing these costs can help restaurants know how much to invest in such safety measures.”
The research team found that a single outbreak of listeria in fast food and casual style restaurants could cost upwards of $2.5 million in meals lost per illness, lawsuits, legal fees, fines and higher insurance premiums for a 250-person outbreak. When looking at the same circumstances for fine dining restaurants, $2.6 million in costs were incurred. The subsequent costs of outbreaks can be major setbacks for restaurants and are sometime irreversible. For example, Chi-Chi’s restaurant went bankrupt and closed their doors in the U.S. and Canada permanently due to a hepatitis A outbreak in 2003. In the past decade, several national restaurant chains have lost significant business due to food-illness outbreaks.
“Even a small outbreak involving five to 10 people can have large ramifications for a restaurant,” says Sarah M. Bartsch, research associate at the Global Obesity Prevention Center and lead author of the study. “Many prevention measures can be simple, like implement adequate food safety staff training for all restaurant employees and apply sufficient sick leave policies, and can potentially avoid substantial costs in the event of an outbreak.”
As the foodborne epidemiologists used to say, ‘it’s always the potato salad’; usually referring to staph toxin outbreaks – where dishes sit out at room temperature either in the preparer’s home, during the transport, or before everyone lines up to eat.
Except, it’s not always the potato salad. Sometimes it’s the chicken salad.
Another 105 ill people from 6 states were added to this investigation since the last update on February 22, 2018. The newly reported ill people likely bought contaminated chicken salad before it was recalled. Public health agencies receive reports on Salmonella illnesses two to four weeks after illness starts.
On February 21, 2018, Triple T Specialty Meats, Inc. recalled all chicken salad produced from January 2, 2018 to February 7, 2018.
The recalled chicken salad was sold in containers of various weights from the deli at Fareway grocery stores in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota from January 4, 2018, to February 9, 2018.
CDC began investigating in December 2017 when CDC PulseNet identified a cluster of three Salmonella Enteritidis infections that whole genome sequencing showed were closely related genetically.
A review of the PulseNet database identified six more closely related illnesses dating back to 2015. These illnesses were added to the outbreak case count. Nine people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from eight states.Illnesses started on dates ranging from July 17, 2015 to December 15, 2017. One person was hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.
Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that contact with pet guinea pigs is the likely source of this multistate outbreak.Four of the seven people interviewed reported contact with a guinea pig or its habitat in the week before getting sick. The outbreak strain of Salmonella was identified in a sample collected from an ill person’s pet guinea pig in Vermont.
As of January 10, 2018, there were 42 cases of E. coli O157 illness reported in five eastern provinces. Individuals became sick in November and early December 2017. Seventeen individuals were hospitalized. One individual died.
The likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill. Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale. Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of illnesses there, but the source of the romaine lettuce or where it became contaminated is unknown.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in the United States is closely related genetically to the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in Canada. WGS data alone are not sufficient to prove a link; health officials rely on other sources of data, such as interviews from ill people, to support the WGS link. This investigation is ongoing. Because CDC has not identified a specific type of leafy greens linked to the U.S. infections, and because of the short shelf life of leafy greens, CDC is not recommending that U.S. residents avoid any particular food at this time.
In the United States, a total of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections have been reported. Among the 18 ill people for whom CDC has information, nine were hospitalized, including one person in California who died. Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
The Public Health Agency of Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada. In the United States, the likely source of the outbreak appears to be leafy greens, but health officials have not identified a specific type of leafy greens that sick people ate in common.
State and local public health officials continue to interview sick people in the United States to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started. Of 13 people interviewed, all 13 reported eating leafy greens. Five (56%) of nine ill people specifically reported eating romaine lettuce. This percentage was not significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 46% reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were interviewed. Based on this information, U.S. health officials concluded that ill people in this outbreak were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine lettuce. Ill people also reported eating different types and brands of romaine lettuce. Currently, no common supplier, distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of the outbreak. CDC continues to work with regulatory partners in several states, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify the source.
Although the most recent illness started on December 12, there is a delay between when someone gets sick and when the illness is reported to CDC. For STEC O157:H7 infections, this period can be two to three weeks. Holidays can increase this delay. Because of these reporting delays, more time is needed before CDC can say the outbreak in the United Stated is over. This investigation is ongoing.