Handwashing is never enough: 60 sickened in E. coli outbreak at Washington fairgrounds

A total of 60 people likely were sickened during an E. coli outbreak at the Milk Makers Fest in April, according to a report issued Friday, Oct. 30, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fair E coli 1About 1,325 Whatcom County first-grade students, plus the teachers and parents who accompanied them, from all school districts in Whatcom County went to the annual event April 21-23 at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden.

The event was designed to introduce young students to farming. It also gave them a chance to pet farm animals, including small horses, sheep, rabbits, chickens and a calf. There was a hay maze and scavenger hunt as well.

People who helped set up and take down the event — on April 20 and April 24 — also were among those who were sickened.

The new report provided additional details about the incident.

preliminary report was put out in June by health officials investigating the outbreak, and the findings were similar. Whatcom County and state health departments as well as the CDC were the investigators.

The CDC’s Oct. 30 report found that:

▪ Of the total number of people who were ill, 25 were confirmed through tests and 35 were probable. Eleven were hospitalized. Six developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening complication. There were no deaths.

In the earlier stages of the investigation, health officials identified cases that were confirmed or probable. Then they switched to confirmed cases only. The latest report returned to tracking both types of cases.

▪ Forty people who attended the event were sickened — 35 first-graders, three high school students, one parent and one teacher.

Twenty secondary cases — people who had contact with someone who went to the Milk Makers Fest — were identified in 14 siblings, four caretakers and two cousins of those who went to the event, the CDC wrote.

▪ The strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157: H7 that caused an outbreak was found in the north end of the dairy barn where the Milk Makers Fest was held, which was reported previously.

“Animals, including cattle, had been exhibited in the barn during previous events. Before the dairy education event, tractors, scrapers, and leaf blowers were used to move manure to a bunker at the north end of the barn,” the CDC reported stated.

▪ While it wasn’t possible to disinfect the barn, steps could have been taken to minimize risk, including hand-washing.

“Students attending the setup and breakdown might have had higher rates of illness because they consumed food in the barn and might not have washed their hands before eating,” the CDC stated. “Facility cleaning procedures and location of the manure bunker (inside the barn) might have contributed to an increased risk for infection among the attendees.”

What jumps out is leaf blowers used to move manure. That’s going to aerosolize and E. coli in the cow poop and no amount of handwashing will remove it.

Be the bug, think where these things are going to go and how they are going to make people barf.

Wash. state health official stymied in quest to test farm pigs for Salmonella

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified the feds of an investigation of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- illnesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) determined there was a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats and these illnesses.

PigJoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times writes the oddly named strain of salmonella, common nationally but never before seen in Washington, now has sickened at least 167 people in 11 counties with confirmed illness since April, health officials said.

People who fell ill consumed whole hogs at private barbecues and at several King County restaurants that served dishes containing the tainted meat. At least 24 people have been hospitalized; several lawsuits have been filed.

Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist, wants to knowwhether swine sent to Kapowsin Meats in Graham, Pierce County, were colonized with the strain associated with the outbreak. Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a public-health alert because of the problem, and Kapowsin has now recalled more than 520,000 pounds of pork products and closed its doors until the issue is resolved.

“What I’m trying to figure out is, did it come from all the farms that fed into Kapowsin? Was this very specific strain in each of those farms, or was it just one? What if all of these farms test negative?” Lindquist said. “It would be helpful for me to know: Are those pigs carrying this specific salmonella strain?”

Agriculture officials in the two states and at the USDA say they don’t have authority to require or refuse testing.

Kirk Robinson, deputy director for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said it’s not clear how the tests would be conducted or who would give the go-ahead to begin.

‘’What would be the protocols around doing that testing?’’ he asked.

“We really don’t have jurisdiction to go on the farm and do some sampling.’’

He added, however, that department officials would be happy to work with farmers and other agencies once any decision is made.

In Montana, a spokesman for Dr. Gregory Holzman, the state’s new medical officer, said his department has broad authority to investigate sources of illness and that Holzma is considering the issue, although there’s no timeline for an answer.

The move by Lindquist also is drawing concern from pork-industry representatives in Montana and at the national level. Montana’s state veterinarian said he has no authority to agree to on-farm testing and he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

“We want to assist the public-health agencies in finding the cause and prevent future incidents. Unfortunately, sampling farms for salmonella will not accomplish this goal,” Dr. Martin Zaluski, state veterinarian with the Montana Department of Livestock, said in an email. “Sampling farms is of limited value to confirm what we already know.”

Dr. Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, and Anne Miller, executive director of the Montana Pork Producers Council, sent Washington health officials letters raising questions about the value of on-farm testing. There are no consistently effective methods to control salmonella on farms, Wagstrom noted.

“The main reason for sending the letter was to ask WADOH (Washington State Department of Health) to reconsider its intent to conduct on-farm testing, which in my scientific opinion would produce no demonstrable benefit to public health,” she wrote in an email to The Seattle Times.

Lindquist said he plans to vigorously pursue the testing, despite any opposition.

“I am here to protect the public’s health,” he said. “It’s the information coming off the farm that’s going to be the key to solving this.”

New regs to control Vibrio in raw oysters

I don’t eat raw oysters.

Lifelong Brisbane residents I know will not eat oysters, raw or cooked (and we have an abundant supply — of oysters, and lifelong Brisbane residents).

raw.oysters.washJoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times writes that when a work trip sent Jill Poretta to Seattle two summers ago, the New Jersey resident decided to make a vacation of it, a chance to see the sights and enjoy the city’s fine dining.

But an appetizer plate of mixed oysters soon spoiled the trip. The day after her dinner at a restaurant on the central waterfront, Poretta became so violently ill she had to take a cab to a hospital at 3 a.m.

“I couldn’t get out of the car,” recalled the 43-year-old legal researcher from Haddonfield, N.J. “I’m vomiting as soon as I walk in the door.”

Poretta had to cut short her trip and head home, where she says she felt exhausted and ill for two weeks. Tests showed she’d contracted Vibrio parahaemolyticus, known as Vp, a leading cause of seafood poisoning in the U.S.

In July 2013, her case was one of four traced to Hammersley Inlet, an arm of water in southwest Puget Sound. State health officials closed the shellfish-growing area — but only after Poretta and others had gotten sick.

Starting this month, there’s a new approach — a first-in-the-nation effort by state health officials and shellfish growers — to curb heat-loving Vp long before it hits the plate. It requires quicker cooling of oysters when air and water temperatures get too warm and closing at-risk commercial beds before illnesses occur.

The protocol requires real-time monitoring to determine how fast harvested oysters must be cooled to a safe 50 degrees — and when they shouldn’t be gathered at all.

The rules aims to reduce the 40 to 45 infections tied to Washington oysters that are confirmed each year and another 6,000 to 7,000 cases that go undiagnosed, health officials said.

 “Anytime you’re basically waiting for illnesses to trigger an action, it means you’ve missed your peak window for public-health protection,” said Laura Wigand Johnson, a marine and environmental scientist who led the state’s two-year process to put the Vp procedures in place.

But the new strategy, which took effect May 1 and runs through Sept. 30, has sent ripples of concern through Washington state’s commercial shellfish industry. That includes 329 licensed private growers and 39 tribal producers, though only about 150 deal in oysters, Johnson said.

All say they are in favor of reducing hard-to-predict Vp illnesses, even as they acknowledge the move requires new duties, new documentation and extra staff.

“It’s quite a shift in the way we do business as it relates to oysters for raw consumption,” said Bill Dewey, a spokesman for Shelton-based Taylor Shellfish Farms, the largest producer of farmed shellfish in the U.S. “We’re working through the nuts and bolts of how we do it.”

Those nuts and bolts apply to shellfish harvesters and dealers who supply fresh oysters to market to be eaten raw, not oysters designated for shucking or post-harvest processing.

There’s lots more at http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/tighter-rules-aim-to-limit-seafood-poisoning-from-raw-oysters/