Category Archives: E. coli

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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Even before Ebola, hospitals struggled to beat far more common infections

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Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile

This KHN story also ran on NPR.

While Ebola stokes public anxiety, more than one in six hospitals — including some top medical centers — are having trouble stamping out less exotic but sometimes deadly infections, federal records show.

Nationally, about one in every 25 hospitalized patients gets an infection, and 75,000 people die each year from them—more than from car crashes and gun shots combined.

Nationally, about one in every 25 hospitalized patients gets an infection, and 75,000 people die from them each year.

 from themA Kaiser Health News analysis found 695 hospitals with higher than expected rates for at least one of the six types of infections tracked by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 13 states and the District of Columbia, a quarter or more of hospitals that the government evaluated were rated worse than national benchmarks the CDC set in at least one infection category, the KHN analysis found.

The missteps Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital made this month in handling an Ebola patient echo mistakes hospitals across the nation have made in dealing with homegrown infections. Continue reading

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Mercer Island boil-water advisory lifted

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Photo: shrff14 on Flickr

Photo: shrff14 on Flickr

The City of Mercer Island announced Wednesday it has lifted the current Boil-Water Advisory in consultation with the state Department of Health. Restaurants may reopen after speaking directly with a Health Inspector from Public Health – Seattle & King County and following completion of step-by-step procedures.

For the sixth day in a row, water-sample test results are clear: all 18 of the latest samples revealed no presence of E. Coli or Total Coliform, and chlorine levels were adequate.  This brings the total number of samples collected to more than 100 over 6 days.

Mayor Bruce Bassett said: “I know I can speak for the whole community when I say that this day has been a long time coming. I’d like to thank staff and partner agencies for their extensive commitment to not only resolving this incident and implementing corrective measures, but also ensuring the safety of the community. We all look forward to life returning back to normal.” Continue reading

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Mercer Island boil-water advisory remains in effect

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Mon Oct 6, Noon – For the fourth day in a row, the City of Mercer Island announces that the latest water-sample test results are clear: all 18 of the samples revealed no presence of E. Coli or Total Coliform.

This includes seven samples collected with permission from residential properties. A map of the locations is available at: www.mercergov.org/files/Boil-Water_Public_Map_SampleSites_IGS.pdf

As elevated chlorination spreads ever further through the water mains, and ongoing investigative work continues to rule out many possible sources of water contamination, the multi-agency task force is now discussing the threshold needed to return to normal operations.

We need to finish the super-chlorinating process and implement our Response Plan to the point where we have either found the source or ruled out enough possibilities to feel sufficiently confident that if E. coli once existed in our system, it is now gone due to the various measures we have at this time however, the boil-water advisory is still in place.

Yesterday, Public Health – Seattle & King County reported a potential case of E. Coli infection in an Island resident; the patient has not been hospitalized.  Lab tests are still pending, and it is not possible to say whether there is any link to Mercer Island water at this point.

To report illness to Public Health, residents should call 206-296-4774.

Mercer Island School District plans to continue a regular school schedule using “heat and eat” food and special water procedures, approved by Public Health – Seattle & King County. Unless otherwise notified, parents should visit the school’s website (www.mercerislandschools.org) for the latest information. Continue reading

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Mercer Island boil-water advisory remains in place

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City Reveals Sunday Test Results and Next Actions
Boil-Water Advisory Still in Place

Drinking Water WarningSun Oct 5, 12:15 pm – The City of Mercer Island announces that the latest test results from water samples collected Saturday have been analyzed and are clear: all 18 of the samples revealed no presence of E. Coli or Total Coliform.

This includes seven samples collected with permission from residential properties.

Today’s test results mark the third day of samples free of contamination; at this time however, the boil-water advisory is still in place.

This morning, Public Health – Seattle & King County reported a potential case of E. Coli illness infection in an Island resident; the patient has not been hospitalized.

At this point, it is not possible to say whether there is any link to Mercer Island water; lab tests are pending. Contact Public Health for more information.

The City and WA State Department of Health continue to review implementation of the response plan and water quality test results in order to determine the earliest that the boil-water advisory can be lifted safely.

Mercer Island School District plans to continue a regular school schedule using “heat and eat” food and special water procedures, approved by Public Health – Seattle & King County. Unless otherwise notified, parents should visit the school’s website (www.mercerislandschools.org) for the latest information. Continue reading

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Possible case of E. coli in Mercer Island resident

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Not definitively linked to water or any specific source

Public Health – Seattle & King County has received a report of a Mercer Island child with presumptive E. coli O157 infection.  

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli Bacteria

The result will be confirmed by the Washington State Public Health Laboratory next week.  At this point it is not possible to say whether there is any link between this case and the Mercer Island water system.

E. coli O157 infection is not uncommon in King County, averaging between 20-30 cases each year. The source of most of these E. coli cases is typically never identified.

“We don’t know whether the infection in this child was caused by the water on Mercer Island,” said Dr. Meagan Kay, Medical Epidemiologist for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “E.coli comes from a variety of sources including ground beef, unpasteurized milk and cheese, and produce. We may never be able to definitively link this case to a particular source.”

The child is not hospitalized.  It is not possible to definitively link this possible case of E. coli infection to water on Mercer Island because the child had multiple possible exposures, including water from the Mercer Island system and foods that can be contaminated with the bacteria. If additional cases due to the same exposure occur, the likelihood of identifying the source increases.

Public Health will continue to monitor for gastrointestinal illness in the community  and reminds health providers to promptly report cases or clusters of suspected E. coli infection as well as other notifiable enteric infections. Continue reading

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New shellfish safety map shows risks in real-time

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From the Washington State Department of Health

shellfish mapA new online shellfish safety map gives shellfish harvesters an up-to-date look at biotoxins, pollution, and bacteria levels at public beaches or on their private property.

Beach names, nearby landmarks, and specific addresses are searchable to help provide real-time information on shellfish safety risks.

The new shellfish safety map was developed to provide current information about areas where water quality conditions and public health risks are evaluated by the Department of Health. Continue reading

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Grilling tips from the Department of Health

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State officials advise: be known for great grilling, not making people sick

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Food safety experts from the Department of Health want people to know how to protect themselves and their loved ones from foodborne illnesses, especially when preparing foods for picnics and barbecues during warm weather.

“Bacteria in or on food can multiply quickly in warm weather,” explains State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “By making sure food is prepared, cooked, and served properly you can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and be well-known for great barbecues and picnics instead of for making people sick.”

Safeguards can be taken when preparing foods to be eaten outdoors, such as using a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked at the correct temperature. Continue reading

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Do not eat raw clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, health officials warn

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Alert Icon

Multistate Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO121 Infections Linked to Raw Clover Sprouts

Advice to Consumers – from the CDC

  • The Washington State Department of HealthExternal Web Site Icon and the Idaho Department of Health and WelfareExternal Web Site Icon are advising people not to eat raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts.
    • People who have these sprouts at home should not eat them and should throw them out, even if some of the product has been eaten and no one has become ill.
  • Contact your health care provider if you think you may have become ill from eating raw clover sprouts.
    • People usually get sick from STEC 2-8 days (average of 3-4 days) after swallowing the organism (germ).
    • Most people infected with STEC develop diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps.
    • Most people recover within a week.
    • People of any age can become infected. Very young children and the elderly are more likely than others to develop severe illness and complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.
  • Always practice food safety for sprouts.
    • Sprouts are a known source of foodborne illnessExternal Web Site Icon.
    • Children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
    • Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking thoroughly kills the harmful bacteria.
    • Persons who think they might have become ill from eating potentially contaminated raw clover sprouts should consult their health care providers.

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E. coli outbreak linked to raw clover sprouts

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Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!Clover sprouts eaten raw are likely source of E. coli illness outbreak

Washington state health officials are warning consumers not to eat raw clover sprouts from an Idaho producer that have been linked to an outbreak of E. coli infections in the Northwest.

The sprouts have been linked to seven confirmed and three probable cases of E. coli O121 illnesses in Washington and Idaho.

Five of those patients were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.

For more details about the outbreak:  Continue reading

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Pollution halts Vaughn Bay shellfish harvest: 14 other areas threatened

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Pollution to close shellfish harvest in one area; 14 others listed as threatened
Fecal bacteria levels force new restrictions to protect shellfish consumers

From the Washington State Department of health:

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!OLYMPIA — The state Department of Health has closed harvesting in part of Vaughn Bay in Pierce County due to high levels of fecal bacteria. Health officials also identified 14 more of Washington’s 101 commercial shellfish growing areas that could be closed in the future if fecal pollution continues to get worse.

“The good news is that the pollution problems in almost all these areas can be found and fixed,” said Bob Woolrich, Growing Area section manager. “There have been many successful pollution correction projects using partnerships with local and state agencies, Tribes, and others.”

The agency shellfish program evaluates the state’s shellfish growing areas every year to see if water quality is approaching unsafe limits. If so, areas are listed as “threatened” with closure.

Shellfish harvesting areas threatened with closure include:

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