5 confirmed sick from Salmonella at Wyoming fair

The Wyoming Department of Health has confirmed a Salmonella outbreak caused by a pig or pigs at the Johnson County Fair.

After a number of Johnson County Fair participants fell ill with stomach cramps and diarrhea, the Department of Health requested stool samples from five people and was able to confirm that all five were suffering from the same type of salmonella.

According to the department’s surveillance epidemiologist Tiffany Greenlee, when two or more people get the same illness from contact with the same animal or animal environment, the event is called a zoonotic outbreak. Greenlee said the pathology reports indicate that the bacteria was transferred from animal to person via pig feces.

“Salmonella lives in animal intestines and is passed through excrement,” Greenlee said. “At fair, people are around their animals extensively – washing and feeding and grooming, and it’s pretty easy to get animal poop on your hands. We believe people got it from pig poop.”

Couple awarded $11.4 million for Cheyenne restaurant Salmonella poisoning

A federal judge in Casper, Wyoming, awarded a Nebraska couple nearly $11.4 million in damages after they ate at a buffet restaurant in Cheyenne in Oct. 2010 and the husband was poisoned with Salmonella, according to court records reported by KGAB.

Old+Country+Buffet“He (Christopher Gage) has undergone numerous surgeries and procedures in an attempt to ease his pain and discomfort,” U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote

“He is in daily pain. He cannot eat or drink water without vomiting. In fact, the testimony is that Mr Gage vomits eighty-five to ninety percent of the time when he eats or drinks. His mobility has been taken from him. He falls on an almost daily basis, which has caused him to break bones. He requires a cane, walker, or wheelchair for mobility, depending on how debilitating his condition is on any given day. His cognitive functioning has been significantly impacted. His relationship with his wife and son have been adversely affected,” Skavdahl wrote.

Christopher and Heather Gage ate at the Old Country Buffet formerly located on Dell Range Boulevard on Oct. 1, a day after the Laramie County Health Department had cited it for numerous code violations.

“Over the following days, Mr. (Christopher) Gage’s symptoms progressed to include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, fever, sepsis, acute kidney failure, acute lactic acidosis, adrenal crisis, anemia, thromocytopenia and atrial fibrillation,” according to the complaint.

During the entire case, Ovation Brands did not respond to the Gages’ lawsuit or defend itself in court.

Ovation Brands has operated other restaurants including Hometown Buffet, which had been at the Eastridge Mall.

In August, Ovation Brands was bought by Food Management Partners of San Antonio, Texas.

The company did not return a call seeking comment.

Wyoming Food Freedom Act threatens public safety

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle writes in an editorial that House Bill 56, the Food Freedom Act, is a bad move for public health.

food-freedom-statute-of-libertyThe bill would let Wyomingites make direct purchases of foodstuffs from farmers and ranchers but there are more than a few examples – and plenty of data – that show allowing the unregulated sale of food items from one buyer to another (which HB 56 would do) has the potential to sicken Wyoming residents. Consider:
– The chances of an outbreak from raw milk (one of the items that the bill’s supporters want) are at least 150 times greater than those of pasteurized milk, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
– Non-outbreak (more sporadic) cases of foodborne illness in raw milk are estimated to be 25 times larger than the number of documented cases.
– There have been 41 documented cases of illness from raw milk in Wyoming in five years.
– Some 180 people became ill with salmonella in North Dakota in 2006 when they were served unlicensed food by a caterer. One victim’s family spent $4,000 just traveling back and forth to the hospital. That did not include their medical expenses.

But, supporters of HB 56 say, informed Wyoming residents should have the right to buy these food items if they so choose (meat would be limited to poultry only). Problem is, not all buyers of these products are informed. They see them for sale, they consume them and they get sick.

raw.milk.food.freedomAnd then there is the fact that children could be fed tainted food products. How can they be “informed”? And it is important to note that even if the elderly and pregnant women know what they are consuming, they are at much greater risk for serious illness if the food is contaminated.

This is a bad bill. That it flew through the House without real consideration of its potential impacts shows it simply has become a political statement about individual liberty. HB 56 should be killed before it takes the life of even one Wyomingite.

Live free or die: Wyoming edition (just don’t give it to your kids)

Parenting and food prep: no one needs any training (until someone gets sick and they want ObamaCare).

yoming.freedomA proposal to take homemade or homegrown food “off the black market” passed a legislative committee vote Thursday.

The House Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee voted 8-1 to advance House Bill 56, also known as the Wyoming Food Freedom Act.

The legislation would exempt Wyoming food sales from government oversight — including inspections, licensing and certification — as long as they are single transactions between a producer and an “informed end consumer.”

Sales at farmers markets and sales of homegrown or locally raised products fall under the purview of the bill.

Rep. John Eklund, R-Cheyenne, said people should have the right to select what they want to buy and eat.

“I think eating good, wholesome food is a right people should have, and they should go and purchase what they want,” he said. “I think I’ve eaten out of everybody’s garden and off every table in eastern Laramie County, and I’ve never had food poisoning or any other problems.”

Food safety fairytales.

Barf in dining area and other food safety failures: 305 sickened in Wyoming Gloden Corral norovirus outbreak

At least 305 individuals became ill with norovirus gastroenteritis after patronizing Golden Corral in Casper, WY from November 17, 2012 through December 19, 2012.

The Wyoming Department of Health has issued a complete report on the outbreak, and identified a number of potential environmental health concerns golden-corralthrough both patron and employee interviews.

Investigators received several reports of dirty dishes being stacked for use in the buffet line, vomitus accidents in the dining area, raw or undercooked food being set out for consumption, employees working while ill with gastrointestinal symptoms, refilling food on buffets without replacing service bowl or service utensils, lack of glove use when handling ready-to-eat foods, cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, and other reports of general poor food-handling practices.

Both patrons and employees independently reported several vomitus accidents in the dining area and in the restaurant’s bathrooms. Investigators noted these events when the interviewee was able to provide a concise date of occurrence.

Recommendations were made for immediate control and as a result of the investigation.

 The restaurant must follow all rules and regulations contained in the Wyoming Food Safety Rule.

 The Wyoming Food Safety Rule currently states that any food-handling staff person who is known to be ill due to gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting should be excluded from work until at least 48 hours has passed since that individual’s last bout of diarrhea or vomiting (whichever occurred last). The 48 hour recommendation is the minimum, as many norovirus-21foodborne pathogens, including norovirus, can be shed by previously-ill persons for longer than 48 hours.

 The Wyoming Food Safety Rule also specifies that the restaurant shall require food-handling employees (i.e., kitchen staff, servers, etc.) to report to the person-in-charge information about their health and activities as they relate to diseases that are transmissible through food. A food-handling employee shall report the information in a manner that allows the person-in-charge to reduce the risk of foodborne disease transmission, including providing necessary additional information, such as date of onset of symptoms and illness, or of a diagnosis with symptoms if the food-handling employee has diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, sore throat with fever or lesions containing pus, an infected wound, has been diagnosed with Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, Hepatitis, or norovirus.

 Enhanced surface disinfection with a product effective against norovirus. A concentrated bleach solution was suggested.

 To minimize bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, such as lettuce, the restaurant should consider requiring the use of gloves when employees are handling those food items. Please note that glove use does not negate the need for proper hand-washing.

 All vomitus accidents should be treated as if they are highly contagious. Staff should use gloves and a concentrated bleach solution to disinfect affected areas. Staff should try to quarantine the area of the accident until the area is adequately disinfected. Staff should quarantine any rags, towels, or mops that were used to clean up the vomitus until they are adequately disinfected to prevent further transmission.

 Report any suspected cases of foodborne illness to health officials. Public health officials provide important services to business owners which include an objective investigation of the problem and providing quick, accurate, and effective mitigation strategies.

 Continue to consult with local environmental health specialists when questions arise about safe food-handling and consider ServSafe training for all kitchen staff.

167 now sick with norovirus from Golden Corral in Wyoming

The Golden Corral restaurant in east Casper is closed until at least dinnertime Friday after a suspected foodborne virus outbreak at the location affected more than 150 people, according to David Giesen, president of franchisee Golden DBL Inc. of Denver.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports the restaurant was closed Thursday afternoon. Giesen said the shutdown is voluntary while staff members clean and disinfect the restaurant and the Natrona County Health Department continues its investigation.

Natrona County Health Department Director Bob Harrington said Thursday that 167 people have reported being ill after eating at the restaurant this past week.

Harrington said health department officials are interviewing Golden Corral employees as part of their investigation, trying to nail down whether the restaurant is the cause of the norovirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, he said the restaurant is conducting a top-to-bottom cleaning and disinfection.

Harrington said department officials will return Friday to conduct a final inspection so the restaurant can open for dinner.

Golden Corral restaurant leading suspect in Casper foodborne-illness outbreak

Another feature of the annual golf trip to Newport News, Virginia, was at least one dinner at Golden Corral.

Golden Corral is a chain restaurant that encapsulates the essence of American excess, specifically, endless, cheap food.

The golf trip organizer, Jeff, a man of Chris Christie proportions, made attendance at the Golden Corral dinner a prerequisite for participation on the trip: no Golden Corral, stay at home.

But there can be problems with that volume of food being served.

According to the Wyoming Billings-Gazette, more than 50 reports of foodborne illness have been made to the Natrona County Health Department this week and fingers are pointing to the Golden Corral restaurant in east Casper as the source of the outbreak.

Health department director Bob Harrington and other department officials conducted an on-site inspection at the restaurant Wednesday. There were sanitation inspections and interviews with employees and management. The Denver-based owner of the restaurant was on location throughout the day working with Health Department officials.

“We are doubling down on all of our safety and sanitary procedures that are normally done,” said David Giesen, president of franchisee Golden DBL Inc. of Denver.

Giesen said he had been cooperating with the Health Department’s investigation.

“Food safety is our highest priority,” he said.

Harrington and Giesen said the cause of the outbreak cannot definitively be connected to the restaurant. It could be a normal virus affecting the community at large, Giesen said.

The department is interviewing people and collecting specimens in its investigation and should have the results in a week, Harrington said.

“We’re pretty close to calling it a virus,” Harrington said. “If it’s what we think it is, it’s norovirus.”

Reports of vomiting and diarrhea have been widespread in Casper, and linking the people, time frame and exposure is what takes a while, Harrington said.

Brain Beall and his family went to the restaurant on Saturday night.

“Early Sunday morning and in the afternoon my entire family was sick,” he said.

They had norovirus symptoms, he said.

When Beall went to pick up a plate at the buffet line, he noticed the bottom was dirty. He picked up more than 25 plates — all were dirty with the remains of food, he said. He spoke to an employee.

“He told me the dishwasher was broken,” Beall said.

Beall lives in Douglas and said the Casper food poisoning outbreak is the talk of the town. He was in a local grocery store Wednesday morning and spoke with four other people who went to Golden Corral over the weekend and became ill.

Even after they saw the unsanitary conditions, Beall said he and his family still ate at the restaurant.

“I am kicking myself in the butt for that. I should have walked away,” he said.

Castrate sheep with tools, not teeth; Campylobacter jejuni cases in Wyoming sheep hands

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that on June 29, 2011, the Wyoming Department of Health was notified of two laboratory-confirmed cases of Campylobacter jejuni enteritis among persons working at a local sheep ranch.

During June, two men had reported onset of symptoms compatible with campylobacteriosis. Both patients had diarrhea, and one also had abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting. One patient was hospitalized for 1 day. Both patients recovered without sequelae. During June, both patients had participated in a multiday event to castrate and dock tails of 1,600 lambs. Both men reported having used their teeth to castrate some of the lambs. Among the 12 persons who participated in the event, the patients are the only two known to have used their teeth to castrate lambs. During the multiday event, a few lambs reportedly had a mild diarrheal illness. Neither patient with laboratory-confirmed illness reported consumption of poultry or unpasteurized dairy products, which are common sources of exposure to C. jejuni. The patients resided in separate houses and did not share food or water; none of their contacts became ill.

Both patients provided stool specimens for laboratory testing; C. jejuni was isolated from each. The pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns of the isolates were indistinguishable when restricted separately by two enzymes, SmaI and KpnI. This PFGE pattern had never been reported among 667 specimens from which C. jejuni was isolated in Wyoming and is rare in CDC’s PulseNet*database, with a frequency of 0.09% (8 of 8,817). The low frequency of this PFGE pattern suggests that both patients were infected from a common source.

Animals at the ranch included sheep, cattle, horses, cats, and dogs; none were ill during the site visit on October 19 when investigators obtained fecal samples from five lambs. C. jejuni was isolated from two lambs; one isolate had a PFGE pattern indistinguishable from the two human isolates. C. jejuni is transmitted via the fecal-oral route; this is the first reported association of C. jejuni infection with exposure during castration of lambs. The PFGE pattern identified in these cases had not been associated with animal exposure. Ranch owners and employees were advised to use standardized, age-specific techniques for lamb castration (e.g., Burdizzo, rubber rings, or surgery) and to wash their hands thoroughly after contact with animals.

Campylobacter increase in Wyoming; any relation to Arizona?

The Wyoming Department of Health is reporting a four-fold increase statewide in Campylobacter infections this summer, with at least 29 people sickened and six hospitalized. Nearly three-quarters of the patients are male.

"While the increase in these infections appears to be sporadic with no single common source, it’s clear that animal-related illness is at least partially driving the increase," said Kelly Weidenbach, epidemiologist with the department’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program.

In rare cases people may develop serious complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. The syndrome occurs when the immune system is triggered to attack the body’s nerves. It can lead to paralysis and usually requires intensive care.

Public health officials attempt to interview each person with the Campylobacter infection. Among patients interviewed to date, exposure to animals, especially cattle and dogs, has been common.

"In many cases, the animals were noted to be ill with diarrhea when the person had contact with them," Weidenbach said. "Several have been ranchers or individuals who recently attended a cattle branding and who were accidentally exposed to fecal material."

That sounds different from the Arizona campylobacter increase. But who knows.

Don’t eat cow poop

But apparently that’s exactly what 11 boys and one staff member at the Mount Carmel Youth Ranch in Wyoming did earlier this year and got a whopping dose of campylobacter.

The Billings Gazette reported that Kelly Weidenbach, a Wyoming Department of Health epidemiologist, said that the outbreak was probably caused by residents unknowingly ingesting feces from a sick calf.

Weidenbach also said that stool samples from some residents and one calf from the ranch tested positive for the same strain of campylobacter, making it likely that a calf with a diarrheal illness was the source of the outbreak, and that tracking the source of the outbreak was "complicated by the fact that boys help prepare food for one another, and they were also working with cattle."

She said there was no evidence that the bacteria was food-borne, and water tests came back negative.

Don’t eat poop.