Over 300 ill with noro at UK school

Sick kids can spread gastrointestinal viruses around pretty quickly. I write from experience, my kids have brought home what was likely norovirus a couple of times from school/preschool and spread it to Dani and I.

10849902_719581291471357_3442145704847569295_n1-300x3001-300x300Once the perfect human pathogen is in a restaurant, grocery store, or cruise ship – or school – it’s tough to get it out without some illnesses.

According to the Courier, a school in the UK, Langlands Primary, has over 300 kids ill as the virus runs through the population

A council spokeswoman previously said: “Parents and carers are advised to keep unwell children at home until they are clear of the virus for 48 hours … The school remains open and senior staff will be teaching affected classes.”

The spokesman added: “The school is working with the local environmental health service to investigate the cause of this illness. We have arranged for additional cleaning to be carried out to reduce the risk of any further infection.”

Parents told The Courier they felt the school should have been shut to contain the outbreak.

Nada Wilson-Bruce said: “My son has it… really wish they would shut the school. He has been very poorly since the early hours of this morning and has been vomiting blood (he has had medical attention).

“Both of my children will stay off until I am convinced the outbreak has diminished.”

Jennifer Clark Mitchell added: “My son isn’t displaying any symptoms, but given the large outbreak he won’t be back until after Christmas.

“The school needs to be properly deep cleaned with strong disinfectant and remain closed for a couple of days to ensure all bugs have died.”

Part of the problem with noro (beyond the low mean infectious dose; environmental stability; and, 10^9 virus particles per gram of vomit/poop) is a vomit event can lead to particles floating through the air. And maybe moving 30 feet from the barf splatter.


‘We strongly advise you not to Google search ‘Hepatitis A’ as you may access inaccurate and possibly worrying information.’

I play hockey with a bunch of technology nerds and last night’s post game dressing room chatter included a discussion on recalled emails. Instead of the intended message of ‘oh, I made a mistake, don’t read that last one,’ it leads to increased attention and urgency in reading the recalled message to see what the sender didn’t want you to see.

Sort of like telling someone not to Google something likely leads to that person immediately Googling it.yorkshire-puddings

That’s what a school in the UK did in an effort to reduce panic after 20 cases of hepatitis A was identified in a couple of schools, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

An outbreak of Hepatitis A in two Leeds schools has seen national health chiefs offer mass vaccinations in the LS9 area.

Public Health England (PHE) stepped in after around 20 cases of the rare virus were confirmed in the area, sparking a vaccination program that will impact thousands of school staff and residents.

The YEP understands that the 630-pupil Richmond Hill Primary School, in Clark Lane, and 460-pupil Brownhill Primary Academy, in Torre Drive, are the two schools where all staff and pupils are being immunized.

A message put out to parents at Richmond Hill Primary School urges them not to “panic” over the situation. It reads: “We strongly advise you not to Google search ‘Hepatitis A’ as you may access inaccurate and possibly worrying information.”

PHE is working with Leeds City Council and the NHS in Leeds to vaccinate those most likely to have come into contact with the carriers. Around 300 people have taken up the vaccine when offered so far, and PHE is stressing that anyone who has not yet been offered the vaccination does not need it at the current time.

There were only 367 reported cases of Hepatitis A infection in England and Wales during 2010.

I Googled hepatitis A and found some good information sources.

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There’s a lot of norovirus in Nevada schools

The famed winter vomiting virus appears to be making life miserable for Nevada school kids. According to the Reno Gazette Journal over 1700 students in 20 schools have had the virus over the past 5 weeks and the outbreak appears to be spreading.

The case count might be real or it might be inflated due to self reporting (kids who want to stay home) or protective parents who don’t want noro in their house (keeping their kids home).

An outbreak of norovirus has reached such heights in local public schools that health officials stopped counting the number of people infected by the highly contagious illness, which causes days of diarrhea and vomiting.200187143-001

But the Washoe County Health District estimates – based on schools’ absenteeism and reported illnesses – that 1,760 students and staff have been afflicted at 20 schools and a few daycare centers, quadrupling the number of infections since the outbreak started at half as many schools on Oct. 1.

“We were hopeful it wouldn’t get to this point,” said county Director of Epidemiology Randall Todd, noting the virus’ rapid spread to a new school every few days.

The health district has advised the Washoe County School District and families to do three things at outbreak schools, which are concentrated in northern Reno, Spanish Springs and Sparks. The health district isn’t identifying the affected daycare centers.

Disinfect high-traffic areas of the school where surfaces are repeatedly touched, such as railings, desks, chairs and doors. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the area around a vomiting incident up to a 25-foot radius.

Wash hands frequently with soap and water — antibacterial hand-sanitizer does not kill the virus.

Sick students and staff must stay out of school for 72 hours after their last symptoms.

Such a “substantial outbreak” wouldn’t be possible if parents and staff were following all three protocols advised for outbreak schools, said Todd, positing that at least one recommendation isn’t being followed.

The health district hasn’t recommended closing any schools, and school officials said they don’t want to go there either for the sake of academics.

But they’re in luck. The week-long fall break starts Monday.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that fall break will give us the boost we need to put this behind us,” said Todd.

‘Elementary school kids, younger kids probably aren’t the best when it comes to hygiene’

We’ve successfully made it through a couple of months of school in our house without any illnesses. I’m not sure if my kids’ recent obsession with handwashing is a factor (I suspect it is) or whether we’ve just been lucky.

Kids and norovirus are a common pair. Last month an estimated 700 students missed school in Person County, NC with the virus (or stayed home to avoid it; only two cases were confirmed). Today, AP reports that 400 kids in northern Nevada at 11 schools likely have noro.norovirus-2

The Washoe County Health District said it believes the norovirus outbreak first started on Sept. 16 at a Reno elementary school, where 150 students and 11 staff members have reported symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.

As of Friday, the Washoe County School District reported that the outbreak had spread to 9 other elementary schools, a high school and some associated daycare centers. It has been centered in Reno, with one Sparks elementary school.

Most of the nearly 400 people affected have been elementary school children. The high school teachers who were sickened also traced their illnesses to the affected elementary school kids, whom they were related to.

“Elementary school kids, younger kids probably aren’t the best when it comes to hygiene,” said Phil Ulibarri, a county health department spokesman.

The school district has also been advised to thoroughly clean schools, which Ulibarri said means sanitizing a 25-foot radius where there is vomiting or diarrhea, including going as high as six feet up along walls.

Awesome, the Nevada folks are using the best available science.

Thirty ill after Peterborough school’s turkey lunch

Peterborough (that’s in Ontario, Canada) is the closest city to where I grew up.

It’s where the local CBC station (which included some excellent programming, see below) was housed; was home of the closest Walmart; and where the Petes play.

And in December a local elementary school had a Salmonella outbreak that was linked to a high school culinary program.ph_youth12

mykawartha.com reports that 30 students, staff and parents fell ill following a turkey lunch prepared by Kenner Collegiate Vocational Institute students, although the specifics of what caused the illness haven’t been identified.

According to Peterborough’s medical officer of health, Dr. Rosana Pellizzari, there must have been some kind of cross-contamination during the meal preparation process by Kenner Collegiate Vocational Institute’s culinary program students. But she says there are no food samples left over, so it’s hard to tell exactly what led to the outbreak.

“We have no smoking gun,” she says.

In all, 270 people ate at the turkey luncheon on Dec. 4.

Dr. Pellizzari says the health unit was first informed of the situation when a call came in from the mother of child who ate the lunch who had become ill.

The health unit then asked for a list of students who’d been away from school in the days following the lunch.

According to Dr. Pellizzari, many of the student who were sick were complaining of gastrointestinal issues.

“We were able to identify that many (people) were made ill by salmonella, a bacteria that’s commonly found in turkey,” she says.

Dr. Pellizzari says no major infractions were found, although the health unit did make some recommendations, all of which have since been implemented at the school.

An health unit inspector also went to another dinner with Kenner culinary students.

Cooking for a large crowd can certainly lead to cross-contamination issues. Maybe the students washed the turkey before cooking. I wonder if thermometers were used by the students (and what temp the turkey was cooked to). Frank Bryan and colleagues would have had the students recreate the day and observed everything.




Do you really want that holiday potluck?

I’ve got a new gig.

powell.food.safety.dec.15I’m the head of food safety for the school tuck shop that is run by volunteers at daughter Sorenne’s school.

The pay is lousy (non-existent) but the discussions are gold, and gets me back into what my friend Tanya deemed reality research – and that’s what my group has always been good at, going out and talking with people.

More practice than preaching.

The tuck shop serves meals for about 200 students, one day a week. It’s run by volunteers, and all profits go to the school.

It used to be run by a school employee, and the meals were purchased and then resold, at a loss. When that person moved on, some parents decided, we can do better that that.

Sorenne said she wanted relief from the drudgery of everyday school lunches, and I said, not until I check it out.

I put my hand up, and now am in charge of food safety.

Things happen that way.

But there were no state resources for volunteers running a tuck shop.

We’ve been making it up as we go.

The questions at my kid’s school can be expanded to the larger community, especially with holiday potlucks.

sorenne.hockey.dec.14I avoid the food at potlucks, church dinners and other community meals. I relish the social interaction, but I have no idea of the hand sanitation, the cooking methods, and other food safety factors that can make people barf and sometimes kill them.

Typically, health types will insist on some level of competency for people providing food, and they will get overruled by politicians who say things like, it’s common sense, and, we’ve always done things this way and never made anyone sick.

No one inspects the tuck shop I volunteer at.

But volunteers aren’t magically immune from making people sick.

The outbreaks are happening weekly at this point, tragically resulting in the death of an elderly woman in New Brunswick, Canada.

Over 15 years ago Rob Tauxe described the traditional foodborne illness outbreak as a scenario that ‘often follows a church supper, family picnic, wedding reception, or other social event.’

This scenario involves an acute and highly local outbreak, with a high inoculum dose and a high attack rate. The outbreak is typically immediately apparent to those in the local group, who promptly involve medical and public health authorities. The investigation identifies a food-handling error in a small kitchen that occurs shortly before consumption. The solution is also local.

Community gatherings around food awaken nostalgic feelings of the rural past — times when an entire town would get together on a regular basis, eat, enjoy company, and work together.

Public health regulations for community-based meals are inconsistent at best, and these events may or may not fall under inspection regulations. Additionally, in areas where community-based meals are inspected by public health there is pressure from the community to deregulate these events due to their volunteer nature.

Food handlers at CMEs are usually volunteers preparing food outside of their own home, often in a communal kitchen. They may not be accustomed to preparing food for a large group, the time constraints associated with food service, or even the tools, foods and processes used for the meal. These informal event infrastructures, as well as volunteer food handlers with no formal food safety training and a lack of commercial food preparation skills, provide a climate for potential food safety problems.

Foods prepared at home and then brought to CMEs also pose a hazard, as research has shown that poor food handling practices in the home often contribute to foodborne illness.

The tuck shop at Sorenne’s school has been running for six months, and we’re now on summer break, did a deep clean, and planning how best to go forward, in a way we can recruit future volunteers.

We also just ended the (ice) hockey season this past weekend and Sorenne told her teacher she wants to be a professional hockey player when she gets older.

There’s no money in that, or food safety, but it’s great to be part of a community.

I needed 40 hours of training to coach a rep girls hockey team in Canada, and 16 hours to coach in Australia.

I don’t need nothing to make people sick.

 Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University.

Over 100 exposed to hepatitis A after virus-shedding kids go to school

Getting my kids to wash their hands is a constant struggle. I’m likely not alone. There’s not a whole lot of great information on this outbreak but Heart is reporting that an outbreak of hepatitis A in Wessex (U.K.) has led to over 100 IgG shots.

According to health authorities, seven school-aged kids at a couple of schools in the U.K. have picked up hepatitis A – and the common link appears to be household-contact related.dirty-hands-medium-new

The Wessex PHE Centre has recommended that close contacts of the cases, including household, some children and staff attending the same class groups in school as some cases should receive Hepatitis A vaccination to prevent further spread of this infection.

Officials say the likelihood of spread of this infection in the school environment is very low, however as a precaution, all parents have been advised of the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A and asked to contact their General Practitioner if they have concerns:

Dr Anand Fernandes, Consultant in Health Protection at PHE Wessex, said:

“We are working closely with colleagues in the local NHS and Portsmouth City Council Environmental Health and Public Health Departments to manage the very low risk of further spread of this illness. “No other children, staff or visitors to the schools will be offered the vaccine as the risk of exposure to them is very low.”

The News reports that Around 150 vaccinations are now being carried out at the Devonshire Infant School and Fernhurst Junior School in Southsea.


Louisiana: school credits handwashing stations with drop in absences

Pink eye, stomach bugs, flu, strep throat: the list can go on and on with reasons students miss school.  When one local school took a deeper look at absences from the previous school year, they incorporated a simple action plan to minimize school germs. 

handwash_south_park(2)Throughout the school day, two handwashing stations at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School in Lake Charles are put to use.  It is all in an effort to reduce the spread of germs at the root of many absences, says ICCS Director of Development, Erin Lang.  “In order to best educate them, we need them here and well,” said Lang.

When Lang and other school administrators reviewed absentee data from the previous school year, they knew something more needed to be done to keep students at their prime.  “If a good number of students are absent from a class, a teacher is unable to continue with a lesson,” said Lang, “it can slow down the learning process, it makes it difficult for those students who are out for an extended period of time.”

Dr. Tyson Green with Imperial Health has two children who attend school ICCS.  He says the spread of germs is rapid on school campuses.  “Whether it’s bacterial or viral, you start talking about the flu, you start talking about stomach viruses and things like that,” said Dr. Green.  “They’re going to get these with cross-contamination if they don’t wash their hands.”

The solution came through handwashing stations.  “What we found as the best way to protect our faculty and our students was basic handwashing with plain soap and water,” said Lang.

The biggest procedural change for students this school year is that as soon they walk into the school building, they go straight to the handwashing stations.  That’s the first wash of the day.  Then every bathroom break gets another hand wash, along with every entrance and exit from the school’s cafeteria.

Lang says the absentee numbers are already showing the success of the additional scrubbing.  “We have looked at our absentee rates from last year to this year, from the start of school through November, and we are already down 12 percent,” said Lang.

3,000 Copenhagen kids get listeria-infested food

As many as 3,000 school children in 40 schools throughout Copenhagen were served listeria-infected food, city officials have warned.

tzatzikiIn a letter to parents, the City of Copenhagen said that listeria was found in tzatziki served to school kids as part of a public-run lunch program. 

 “We are writing to you because your child has eaten EAT [the name of the school food programme, ed.] on Tuesday, November 11th and it has now been found that there was listeria in the tzatziki,” the letter reads, according to broadcaster DR. 

 The EAT programme delivers lunch to 40 different schools and the infected tzatziki was one of two lunch options offered on November 11th. According to a city official, around 3,000 of the up to 5,000 children who get their meals from the programme are through to have chosen the infected dish. 

 “We are clearly taking this very seriously, and are currently following all of the recommendations from Fødevarestyrelsen [the Danish Food and Veterinary Administration, ed.] in order to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Lina Maria Johnsson, the head of the city’s health department, told DR. 

 It is uncertain if the listeria stems from the cucumber, garlic or yoghurt used in the tzatziki, or from unhygienic conditions at EAT’s kitchens.

Denmark has seen numerous listeria outbreaks this year. The most serious of which, an outbreak that was traced to the deli meat rullepølse, has killed 17. In another incident, listeria in a soup served at two public hospitals killed three

33 sick from Salmonella in Italian schools

Something may be lost in translation but thanks to our Italian food safety friend for sending this along:

salmonellosi-nelle-scuole-di-paderno-dugnano-33-i-contagiati_89d4de58-6cc2-11e4-b101-5ef8e16d9739_998_397_big_story_detailThe medical report on salmonellosis in the schools has been upgraded to a total of 33 people infected, 25 confirmed and 8 to verify. 

Food technologist Roberto Church reiterated that “90% of the problems do not stem from cooking center “which has been up and running even after the outbreak of the emergency. There is no guarantee one hundred percent, but the controls ASL have ruled that the strain may have originated from the place where 3 thousand daily meals are cooked.

“Besides – he explained to the parents gathered in the Church hall – even the staff of the center area has been subjected to medical examination,” and in this case there were no significant abnormalities. So, they ask their parents, where does the infection that has decimated the school population from one end of the town of Paderno, with strong implications in school buildings miles away from each other?

Blame consumers.