Category Archives: Infections

Bats: Not so bad, but please don’t touch


BatsBy Amy Tseng
Public Health – Seattle & King County

Bats have an unfortunate reputation. A small, unscientific survey of our staff said they associate bats with “vampires,” “Mitzvah,” “Michael Keaton,” and “Nelson Cruz.”

Clearly, we needed to learn more. So we sat down with our in-house expert, Public Health Veterinarian Beth Lipton, who reminded us that bats aren’t all bad, but you really shouldn’t touch them.

Let’s start with some myth-busting.

True or false: Bats are evil and suck our blood:

Bats are no more evil than any other animal, and our Washington bats do not suck blood. They actually eat a large amount of night-flying insects, including moths, beetles, mosquitoes, termites and flies. Bats are actually very beneficial to our environment and ecology because they help preserve the natural balance of the insect population – particularly mosquitoes.

True or false: Bats are blind:

Continue reading


Raccoon latrines: Yes, they’re a thing, and they are as gross as they sound


You’ve probably not heard the words “raccoon” and “latrine” put together. For instance, it’s doubtful that you’ve heard, “So, what’s up with the raccoon latrine in the corner of your yard?” uttered at the neighborhood block party.

But it is a thing. A raccoon latrine is a site where those furry, masked critters repeatedly deposit their feces in one particular spot. Raccoons prefer sites that are flat and raised off the ground, but they also use the base of trees, and occasionally, open areas.

Common sites for raccoon latrines are roofs, decks, unsealed attics, haylofts, forks of trees, fence lines, woodpiles, fallen logs, and large rocks.

It’s never pleasant to have a latrine on your property, no matter who is using it. But if it was created by raccoons, it’s also a health hazard.

Photo courtesy of Darkone via Wikipedia Creative Commons License Continue reading


Want to know what diseases your pet can give you?


From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Good for you?

To observe World Animal Day (Oct 4) the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Has launched a redesigned Healthy Pets Healthy People website, with expanded information about diseases people can catch from pets, farm animals, and wildlife.

Users can now search alphabetically by animal and learn which zoonotic diseases they may carry. It is a unique “one-stop shop” where people can learn simple actions to protect themselves – and their pets.

The redesigned website offers:

  • An alphabetized list and description of diseases that can spread from animals to humans.
  • A list of animal species with the description of diseases associated with the animal.
  • Specific groups of people that may be more susceptible to diseases from animals.
  • Tips for preventing illnesses acquired from pets and other animals.
  • Detailed information about the health benefits of owning a pet.

Continue reading


Parents in poor countries have worry about vaccines, too: If they can get them for their children


Globe 125X125The Republican presidential debates have fueled another round of vaccine anxiety in the U.S. But in the world’s poorest countries, parents have a different set of concerns: They worry about getting their kids immunized quickly enough.


If you’re 60 or over, you need the shingles vaccine


 Don’t wait, vaccinate! Learn about shingles.By Kory B. Fowler, M.D.
Medical Director, Intermountain Region

Shingles is not fun.  In fact, it’s downright awful.  It starts with a tingling or burning sensation on the skin along one side of the body, followed by an extremely painful rash consisting of bumps, blisters or crusting. Hundreds of thousands of Americans 60 or over suffer from shingles each year, and the worst part is they don’t have to. Continue reading


Ouch! Vaccination rates for older adults falling short


Vaccine SquareBy Phil Galewitz

Three out of four Americans older than 60 don’t get a shingles vaccine to protect themselves from the virus’ miseries: rashes over the face and body, stinging pain that can last for weeks or months and the threat of blindness.

Sometimes people must feel a pound of pain – someone else’s – to take a shot of prevention. Dr. Robert Wergin tells of one elderly patient with shingles who came to his Milford, Neb., office this summer. “I’m sorry, doc, I should have listened to your advice to get the shot,” the man said. A few weeks later, the man’s wife and brother, both in their 60s, visited Wergin, asking for the vaccine.

One in three seniors each year skips the flu vaccine.
Four in 10 seniors are not vaccinated for pneumonia.
Nearly half of seniors are not immunized for tetanus

“It’s amazing how once people see the disease up close, getting the vaccine suddenly raises up on their list of priorities,” said Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The shingles vaccine is not the only shot that public health officials are struggling to persuade older Americans to get. Continue reading


For California, last year’s West Nile season was worst ever


West nile virus wnv

By Barbara Feder Ostrov

West Nile virus hit California harder than ever last year, with a record 561 cases of neuroinvasive disease–the most serious types of the illness–reported from the mosquito-borne virus, according to federal health data released Thursday.

The number of these serious California cases was 83 percent higher than the previous record number reported in the state in 2005, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of those cases — 70 percent — were reported from Los Angeles and Orange counties, which recorded 15 West Nile deaths last year. Statewide, 31 people died of West Nile disease in 2014. Continue reading


Salmonella outbreak liked to imported cucumbers


Nine cases reported in Washington State

Health officials suspect that cucumbers imported from Mexico may have been the source of the Salmonella infection that has sickened nearly 300 people in 27 states, including 9 people in Washington state. There has been one death linked to the outbreak.

In response to the outbreak, the distributor, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, has voluntarily recalled all cucumbers sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label during the period from August 1, 2015 through September 3, 2015 because they may be contaminated with the bacteria.

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 8.22.16 AM

These cucumbers are shipped in a black, green, yellow, and craft colored carton which reads “Limited Edition Pole Grown Cucumbers.” Labeling on the cases of recalled cucumbers indicates the product was grown and packed by Rancho Don Juanito in Mexico. Domestically produced cucumbers are not believed to be involved in this outbreak.

The type of cucumber is often referred to as a “slicer” or “American” cucumber. It is dark green in color and typical length is 7 to 10 inches. In retail locations it is typically sold in a bulk display without any individual packaging or plastic wrapping.

Limited Edition cucumbers were distributed in the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah and reached customers through retail, food service companies, wholesalers, and brokers. Further distribution to other states may have occurred.

As of September 3, 2015, 285 people infected with the outbreak strain, called Salmonella Poona. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Alaska (8), Arizona (60), Arkansas (6), California (51), Colorado (14), Idaho (8), Illinois (5), Kansas (1), Louisiana (3), Minnesota (12), Missouri (7), Montana (11), Nebraska (2), Nevada (7), New Mexico (15), New York (4), North Dakota (1), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (3), South Carolina (6), Texas (9), Utah (30), Virginia (1), Washington (9), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3).

To learn more about the recall go here.



Public health officials investigate E. coli outbreak


Six people have been infected with the same strain of E. coli (three have been hospitalized) Everyone who became sick had something in common – they ate food prepared by, a local food vendor called Los Chilangos.

From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli Bacteria

E coli / NIAID

Public Health is currently investigating an outbreak of E. coli 0157 – one of the most serious foodborne illnesses you can contract. Our thoughts are with the families affected by this outbreak, and we appreciate the support of the community as we work to protect the health of the public.

A person can get an E. coli O157 infection from many different sources: by eating or drinking something contaminated with animal or human fecal matter, through animal contact, or through contact with another person who has an E. coli infection.

One of our responsibilities at Public Health is to track down these sources. When there are illnesses associated with any one of the more than 12,000 food establishments in the county, we search for contaminated products, ill food workers, or improper food handling.

We follow specific steps to find clues that help us pinpoint the source(s) that may be linked to illness. Here are key steps of this current investigation. Continue reading


Vaccine rates leave many Washington toddlers at risk


Alert IconFrom Washington State Department of Health

New immunization rates show many toddlers across the state aren’t getting vaccinated for certain diseases on time, if at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Immunization Survey.

The trend means more children are at risk of getting measles, whooping cough, or other preventable diseases.

The trend means more children are at risk of getting measles, whooping cough, or other preventable diseases.

The annual survey reports that children between 19 and 35 months of age weren’t any more protected against serious and potentially fatal diseases than the year before. About 67 percent of toddlers in 2014 were fully vaccinated by 3 years of age.

This overall rate is about 3 percent lower than 2013, but statistically the two rates are not significantly different.Washington’s immunization rates for 2014 did not improve for most recommended vaccines for young children.

The lone exception was the dose of hepatitis B vaccine given at birth. Coverage rates for the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine exceeded national coverage rates, increasing to almost 80 percent.

“The data show that we’re not protecting all of our kids as well as we should,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “We’re disappointed that our rates aren’t higher. When kids aren’t fully protected, it puts those kids and the wider community at risk of disease. The recent spike in measles cases and the ongoing whooping cough outbreak highlights the need for high vaccination rates.” Continue reading


Seattle Children’s discovers lapse in sterilization at Bellevue clinic | Patients may need to be tested for Hep. B, C, HIV – Bellevue Reporter


Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s Hospital is working with the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control after it was revealed that the required procedures for cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments at the hospital’s Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center were not always followed.

“I understand that families will be concerned, and rightly so, but from a scientific perspective, the risk is low, which I hope that families find reassuring,’ Seattle and King County Public Health official Justin Duchin, M.D. said at a press conference on August 26.

As a result of the problems with sterilization, patients who had a surgical procedure at the Bellevue Clinic may need to be tested for hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV, the hospital said in a statement.

Source: Seattle Children’s discovers lapse in sterilization at Bellevue clinic | Patients may need to be tested for Hep. B, C, HIV – Bellevue Reporter