Category Archives: E. coli

Fairs and petting zoos are in season: tips to avoid animal-spread illnesses

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Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

Photo by dragonariaes

From the Washington State Department of Health

Millions of people go to agricultural fairs and petting zoos this time of year, and children of all ages love to be around the animals.

Taking a few safety precautions can help reduce the chance of getting sick after spending time with animals or their surroundings.

“We encourage people to enjoy their local fairs and petting zoos,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Just make sure your visit is a safe one. Washing your hands is the number one way to do just that.”

Handwashing is the most effective way to reduce chances of getting sick. The spread of illnesses from animals, such as those caused by E.coli and Salmonella, are commonly linked to hand-to-mouth contact. Continue reading

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Waterborne diseases pose a risk during swimming and other outdoor fun

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From the Washington State Department of Health

infant-swimmingSwimming pools, beaches, lakes, and streams provide an opportunity to cool off during a summer that’s warmer than usual.

Yet germs in the water can make people sick, especially young children, elderly people, and people with weak immune systems.

Chlorine in swimming pools kills most germs, but some types of germs can resist chlorine for many days.

Germs that can cause waterborne illness include Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, E. coli, and norovirus. In the past three years, three outbreaks of waterborne illness have been reported to state health officials – two in lakes and one in a swimming pool.

“It’s important to do all we can to protect ourselves and others from waterborne diseases when we take a dip into local pools, lakes, and rivers,” said State Epidemiologist for Communicable Disease Dr. Scott Lindquist. “Stay out of the water if you’re ill or have recently had diarrhea.” Continue reading

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Watcom County E coli outbreak linked to fairgrounds dairy barn

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaThe bacteria that sickened 25 people in Whatcom County has been traced to a dairy barn on the   Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, an investigation by county, state and federal health officials has concluded.

“All of the ill people either attended the Milk Makers Fest between April 21 and 23 at the Northwest Fairgrounds; helped with the event between April 20 and 24; or were close contacts of people associated with the event,” according to a final report on the outbreak released by the Whatcom County Health Department.

“Most of the ill people were children, including older children who helped with the event. More than 1,000 children from primary schools in Whatcom County attended the event on these days,” report said..

The bacteria, a virulent form of the bacteria Esherichia coli, called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, can cause severe diarrhea and in some cases a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, that can lead to kidney failure. Contamination of the fairgrounds most likely occurred before the Milk Makers Fest.

Investigators identified 25 people confirmed cases:

  • 9 of these cases were considered secondary cases (the ill person didn’t attend the event but had close contact with someone who did attend).
  • 10 people were hospitalized.
  • 6 people developed HUS.

No one died as a result of the outbreak.
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Planning on going on a cruise? Check in here first.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.20.45 AMThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has set up a webpage where you can search a database of over 300 cruise ships that make port in the U.S., where you are able to see their health and safety records going back as far as 2010, as well as their current position and deck plans.

To search the database, go here.

 

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As many as 36 E. coli cases linked to Whatcom county fair

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaWhatcom County health officials report that as of May 1st they have identified 18 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with E. coli O157 linked to a fair held late last month and additional 18 cases with symptoms that appear to be due to highly pathogenic bacterium. Five cases have been hospitalized.

Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event, the Milk Makers Fest, that was held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on April 21 – 23.

The bacterium, shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157, can be contracted by consuming food or by coming into contact with animals.

The Whatcom County Health Department is  continuing to interview cases to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other contact with livestock. Washington State Department of Health Communicable Disease Epidemiology is assisting with the outbreak investigation.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. Continue reading

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E. coli outbreak in Whatcom County

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TEscherichiaColi_NIAIDhe Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) is investigating an outbreak of E. coli associated with the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21 – 4/23/15.

Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract.

However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract.

The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. Continue reading

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Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Raw milk causes more than half of all milk-related foodborne illnesses in the United States, even though only about 3.5 percent of Americans drink raw milk, according to a new report.

The researchers warned that people are nearly 100 times more likely to get a foodborne illness from raw (unpasteurized) milk than from pasteurized milk.

via Steer Clear of Raw Milk, Researchers Warn – WebMD.

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Our plan to combat and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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TuberculosisOp-Ed: By Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and  Secretary of the Department of Defense Ash Carter

Antibiotics save millions of lives every year. Today, however, the emergence of drug resistance in bacteria is undermining the effectiveness of current antibiotics and our ability to treat and prevent disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

Antibiotic resistance also limits our ability to perform a range of modern medical procedures, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and organ transplants. That’s why fighting antibiotic resistance is a national priority.

Combating and preventing antibiotic resistance, however, will be a long-term effort. That’s why, today, the Administration is releasing the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (NAP).

The NAP outlines a whole-of-government approach over the next five years targeted at addressing this threat:

1. Slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections 

The judicious use of antibiotics in health care and agriculture settings is essential to combating the rise in antibiotic resistance. We can help slow the emergence of resistant bacteria by being smarter about prescribing practices across all human and animal health care settings, and by continuing to eliminate the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals. Continue reading

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Shellfish harvest in Portage Bay will be limited due to pollution

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Portage Bay Bellingham LumiThe state Department of Health has placed restrictions on shellfish harvesting for part of Portage Bay in Whatcom County due to high levels of bacteria.

Water tests show that at certain times, the shellfish area is affected by polluted runoff from the Nooksack River.

Portage Bay usually has good water quality, but during specific times of the year the Nooksack River carries higher levels of bacteria into the shellfish harvesting area.

As a result, state health officials have changed the classification of nearly 500 of the 1,300 commercial shellfish harvesting acres in the bay from “approved” to “conditionally approved.”

Harvesting in the conditionally approved area will be closed each year from April through June and again from October through December. Continue reading

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Cities turn to social media to police restaurants

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yelp-logoBy Jenni Bergal
Stateline

Many diners regularly click onto the Yelp website to read reviews posted by other patrons before visiting a restaurant.

Now prospective customers also can use Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville and several other communities.

Local governments increasingly are turning to social media to alert the public to health violations and to nudge establishments into cleaning up their acts. A few cities are even mining users’ comments to track foodborne illnesses or predict which establishments are likely t­­o have sanitation problems.

Customers also can use Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville and several other communities.

“For consumers, posting inspection information on Yelp is a good thing because they’re able to make better, informed decisions about where to eat,” said Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in the economics of online businesses. “It also holds restaurants more accountable about cleanliness.” Continue reading

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Ducklings and chicks: Nature’s impossibly cute little bacteria factories

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At least 39 Washingtonians report illness after contact with live poultry, during 2012-2014

Chicks chickens

From the Washington State Department of Health

The season for seeing chicks and ducklings tweet and quack their tiny ways into people’s hearts is officially underway. But it’s not always wise to follow the flock when a brood or clutch is concerned.

At least 39 Washingtonians have reported getting ill from Salmonella bacteria after coming in contact with live poultry in the past three years, according to reports reviewed by disease investigators at the state’s Department of Health.

These 39 cases were associated with three separate national Salmonella outbreaks that caused more than 1,200 people to get sick.

Contact with live poultry may also have contributed to more than 100 other cases of salmonellosis in our state in the past three years that weren’t associated with any known outbreak.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Siehe Lizenz under Creative Commons license

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Why I love family-run restaurants: Insights from a food inspector

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cropped-eyob-in-idBy Eyob Mazengia, PhD, RS, Food Protection Program
Public Health – Seattle & King County

When I started as a food inspector, I was assigned to the International District. And I liked it. It was almost like walking into a new culture, a new era.

What fascinated me was that as a public health worker, I had permission to walk into people’s personal spaces. I liked the smells, the sounds of their languages, their wall hangings and the way things looked.

It was a privilege, really, to be allowed into their personal spaces. Going on food inspections in the I.D., it was like walking into 3-4 different countries every day, without traveling outside the neighborhood.

Over the years, I established good relationships with the restaurant establishments. They were no longer just restaurant operators—they were mothers, fathers, grown kids. They’re not just businesses—there’s a family behind every door, people who had often gone through difficult times to be here.

And as I got to know them, I could recognize the sacrifices they made to give their children better opportunities in the U.S., and what they left behind. Even those born and raised here, you could recognize the sacrifices they were making. Continue reading

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Washington scores four out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing and responding to infectious disease outbreaks

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From Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

Washington scored only four out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing, detecting, diagnosing and responding to outbreaks, like Ebola, Enterovirus and antibiotic-resistant Superbugs.

Some key Washington findings include:

No. Indicator Washington Number of States Receiving Points
A “Y” means the state received a point for that indicator
1 Public Health Funding: Increased or maintained level of funding for public health services from FY 2012-13 to FY 2013-14. N 28
2 Preparing for Emerging Threats: State scored equal to or higher than the national average on the Incident & Information Management domain of the National Health Security Preparedness Index. Y 27 + D.C.
3 Vaccinations: Met the Healthy People 2020 target of 90 percent of children ages 19-35 months receiving recommended ≥3 doses of HBV vaccine. N 35 + D.C.
4 Vaccinations: Vaccinated at least half of their population (ages 6 months and older) for the seasonal flu for fall 2013 to spring 2014. N 14
5 Climate Change: State currently has completed climate change adaption plans – including the impact on human health. Y 15
6 Healthcare-acquired Infections: State performed better than the national standardized infection ratio (SIR) for central line-associated bloodstream infections. N 16
7 Healthcare-acquired Infections: Between 2011 and 2012, state reduced the number of central line-associated blood stream infections. N 10
8 Preparing for Emerging Threats: From July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, public health lab reports conducting an exercise or utilizing a real event to evaluate the time for sentinel clinical laboratories to acknowledge receipt of an urgent message from laboratory. N 47 + D.C.
9 HIV/AIDS: State requires reporting of all CD4 and HIV viral load data to their state HIV surveillance program. Y 37 + D.C.
10 Food Safety: State met the national performance target of testing 90 percent of reported Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 cases within four days. Y 38 + D.C.
Total  4

 Read the full report here.

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Avoid raw milk, it’s just not worth the risk, says CDC

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Raw milk can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick or kill you. If you’re thinking about drinking raw milk because you believe it has health benefits, consider other options.

Developing a healthy lifestyle requires you to make many decisions. One step you might be thinking about is adding raw milk to your diet. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized (heating to a specific temperature for a set amount of time to kill harmful germs). Germs include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Making milk safe
Milk and products made from milk need minimal processing, called pasteurization. This process includes:

  • Heating the milk briefly (for example, heating it to 161°F for about 15 seconds)
  • Rapidly cooling the milk
  • Practicing sanitary handling
  • Storing milk in clean, closed containers at 40°F or below

While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.

When milk is pasteurized, disease-causing germs are killed. Harmful germs usually don’t change the look, taste, or smell of milk, so you can only be confident that these germs are not present when milk has been pasteurized.

Remember, you cannot look at, smell, or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe to drink.

Risks of drinking raw milk

Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or even kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death.

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Illnesses due to raw milk on the rise

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From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

The average annual number of outbreaks due to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk have more than quadrupled – from an average of three outbreaks per year during 1993-2006 to 13 per year during 2007-2012. Overall, there were 81 outbreaks in 26 states from 2007 to 2012.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.The outbreaks, which accounted for about 5 percent of all food-borne outbreaks with a known food source, sickened nearly 1,000 people and sent 73 to the hospital. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks occurred in states where selling raw milk was legal.

As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.

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