Category Archives: Public Health

Costco chicken salad connected to King County E. Coli case


E coli - Photo NIAIDBy Lindsay Bosslet
Public Health – Seattle & King County

The Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in conjunction with local health officials, are currently investigating a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases that has been connected to Costco chicken salad.

One case has been reported in Washington state. This person, a King County resident, is a teen male who was not hospitalized. He reported eating the implicated product, which he purchased from the Shoreline Costco.

For more information on this outbreak, read this press release from Washington State Department of Health.

If you purchased this product (number 37719) from a Washington Costco, discard it and do not eat it.

People who have eaten this product and feel ill should consult with their health care provider. People usually get sick 2-8 days after getting E. coli.

PHOTO: E coli courtesy of National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease


Cities and states try to crack down on distracted cycling


BikeBy Jenni Bergal

Worried that bicyclists who chat, send messages or listen to music on smartphones are creating a danger, a number of cities have banned cyclists from using hand-held cellphones or texting while riding. And several states prohibit bicyclists from using headphones or earplugs.

The efforts to reduce the risk to cyclists, pedestrians and motorists come as cities are trying to become more bike-friendly, and people increasingly turn to electronic devices to communicate and navigate.

“If they want to share the road, they have to share the responsibility as well,” said Massachusetts state Rep. Steven Howitt, a Republican, who has introduced a bill that would prohibit bicyclists from wearing headphones.

Bicycle advocates also say there’s no evidence that such use has resulted in deaths or serious injuries, and question whether creating laws or slapping fines on cyclers makes sense.

Bicycle advocates say cyclists should use common sense and not use hand-held electronic devices at all when riding. Nor should bikers use headphones if they are distracting.

But advocates also say there’s no evidence that such use has resulted in deaths or serious injuries, and question whether creating laws or slapping fines on cyclers makes sense.

“There’s a huge difference between distracted driving that kills someone and distracted biking that doesn’t,” said Peter Wilborn, founder of Bike Law, a network of personal injury lawyers that focuses on cycling issues. “I don’t think we need laws specifically for this.” Continue reading


What to do if the lights go out


Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 6.23.48 AMMeredith Li-Vollmer
Public Health – Seattle & King County

The forecast calls for high winds and rain through Tuesday night, and that means power outages are likely when trees or their limbs topple.

Power outages don’t seem like a big deal until they happen–then they are a pain in the you-know-what at best, and a serious health hazard at their worst.

Who do I call if the power goes out?

  • Check your neighborhood to see if others are without power.
  • Call to report the power outage. Call only once to keep the line open for other customers.

For residents of the Seattle area, call Seattle City Light Power Outage Hotline at 206-684-7400.

For other King County residents
, call Puget Sound Energy Customer Service at 1-888-225-5773 or report an outage online through your My PSE account at

What should I do when you see damaged or downed power lines in your neighborhood?

  • Don’t get near any fallen or sagging power line!
  • Call the utility company about the line.

What about people who are using life support equipment at home?

  • People who depend on electrical equipment to treat a health problem should have a plan in advance of a power outage.
  • In some cases, this may mean purchasing a back-up power supply such as a generator or going to a health care facility that has back-up power.
  • People who use life support equipment should register with the local utility. When they do this, the utility will make them a top priority for power supply repair and restoration.

How should I use a power generator?

  • For your safety, always follow the manufacturer’s instruction on the use of power generators.
  • Since most generators are powered by gasoline and can generate carbon monoxide gas, run them outdoors where the fumes will not cause illness.
  • Power generators should never be plugged into your home’s main electrical panel as this may result in serious injury or death to utility personnel working to restore power. Instead, plug the generator directly into the appliance you wish to use during the outage.

How long will the food in my refrigerator and freezer remain cold enough to prevent food borne illness?

  • Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed to prevent the loss of cold air.
  • A fully loaded refrigerator may keep food fresh for about six hours.
  • A fully loaded freezer may keep food frozen for up to two days.
  • If any food in the refrigerator or freezer is warmer than 41° F, throw it out.

My power has been out for a while and my home is too cold. What are my options?

In a severe emergency or disaster, expect electric power to be out for several days. If that happens, consider relocating to a shelter or to a friend’s home where heat and power are available.

And one more important warning:

Never use charcoal, gas, or propane heaters indoors. Odorless, invisible fumes from charcoal, gas, and propane can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Using these heaters indoors can also increase the risk of fire.


Violence abroad and at home – Viewpoint


DuchinThe following is a message from Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin to the agency’s staff. The agency decided to share the message with the public because it thought “the message will resonate with those inside and outside of our agency.”

Dear Colleagues,

On Friday, I spent the day with others from Public Health – Seattle & King County and regional local health departments, Washington State Department of Health, and the University of Washington at a conference organized by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice to help find solutions to the problem of injury and violence in our communities.

It was therefore especially ironic and sickening to hear the news of the Paris terrorist attacks on the car radio as I returned from the meeting.

Many of us, including myself, feel overwhelmed trying to fathom the reasons for, and solutions to, the type of mindless killing that has been routinized by repeated violent terrorist attacks happening around the world, most recently in Paris, Beirut, Nigeria, Somalia, Cameroon, Turkey, Israel and Gaza, Iran, and elsewhere.

Here at home, we are struggling with many incarnations of violence in our own communities and country, including intentional violence from suicide, gun violence, intimate partner and domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences and other emotional trauma, and multiple causes of unintentional injury and death.

As public health professionals we share a common purpose: Improving the health of communities through prevention. Accordingly, we bring our public health approach to addressing the wicked problems of violence and injury.

I sincerely hope that in addition, this most recent abomination in Paris will motivate not only public health professionals but all of us, including governmental, business and community leaders across the country to acknowledge all types of violence – even terrorist violence– as a public health problem – a disease – and treat it accordingly.

Although we will not be able to easily solve the problem of global terrorist violence through our actions here at home, redoubling our efforts to end the ongoing devastation of violence of all types in our communities would be a meaningful start.

I’m optimistic that with the same perseverance, dedication, and intelligence that we used to put a man on the moon, conquer smallpox and polio, and harness the energy of the atom, we can make real progress in reducing violence from all causes in our communities, our country, and the world.




HUD Proposes Nationwide Smoking Ban In Public Housing


Cigarette thumbPublic housing residents would be banned from smoking, not just in public spaces on the premises, but in their own apartments under a proposal Thursday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal, which is drawing criticism from many residents and being praised by others concerned about second-hand smoke.


E. coli outbreak likely linked to Chipotle restaurants grows


chipotleFrom Public Health – Seattle & King County

The investigation into an outbreak of E. coli illnesses that may be related to Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon has grown from 19 reported Washington cases to 25 as of today.

The Washington State Department of Health continues working closely with local, state, and federal partners on a disease investigation to learn the extent of the outbreak and possible sources of E. coli bacteria.

In Washington, residents of Clark (11), Cowlitz (2), Island (2), King (6), and Skagit (4) counties have been reported as outbreak cases.

Of the 25 cases, 23 reported having been at Chipotle restaurants before getting sick. Nine of the Washington residents were hospitalized. Cases range in age from five-to-60. No deaths have been reported in this outbreak.

There are five Washington restaurants associated with this outbreak: Hazel Dell, 7715 NE 5th Avenue, Suite 109, in Vancouver; 1404 Broadway Avenue and 4229 University Way NE in Seattle; 512 Ramsey Way 101 in Kent; and 1753 S. Burlington Blvd. in Burlington.

The Oregon Department of Public Health has information on cases in that state. The state health agencies and local health partners are coordinating with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration on the investigation.

Chipotle restaurants are under a voluntary closure. The Washington Department of Health Food Safety Program staff are working to establish criteria for the restaurants in this state to reopen.


19 E. coli infections linked to Chipotle restaurants


chipotleFrom Washington State Department of Health

A cluster of E. coli cases led to the voluntary closure of many Chipotle restaurants this week.

The restaurants under investigation are linked to 19 cases of E. coli illnesses in Washington.

Three more cases were reported from Oregon, also associated with Chipotle restaurants.

Seven of the Washington patients and one Oregon patient were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.

Four cases were reported in King County, nine in Clark County, one in Cowlitz County, and five in Skagit County. Three cases were reported in Oregon residents.

While the outbreak appears to be linked to food served at Chipotle restaurants, the food or other source of contamination hasn’t yet been determined and remains under investigation. Continue reading


E coli outbreak may be linked to Chipotle restaurants


Health officials say 19 E. coli cases may be linked to Chipotle restaurants in Wash. and Ore.

chipotleBy Hilary N. Karasz 
Public Health – Seattle & King County

Health officials are currently investigating a multi-state outbreak of E. coli that may be linked to Chipotle restaurants.

Four cases were reported in King County. While the outbreak is currently under investigation, preliminary information is that fourpeople in King County have become ill, two teenagers and two people in their 20s.

One of the teens and one of the people in his/her 20s were hospitalized. In King County, all four ill people ate at a Chipotle between October 19 and 23.

While the outbreak appears to be linked to food served at Chipotle restaurants, the food or other source of contamination hasn’t yet been determined and remains under investigation.

Chipotle restaurants in Washington have voluntarily closed until further information on the cause of the outbreak is available.

Chipotle restaurants in Washington have voluntarily closed until further information on the cause of the outbreak is available.

The type of E. coli implicated in this outbreak has not been confirmed but is a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli similar to E. coli O157:H7. It can cause bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting. It can sometimes result in severe, life-threatening illness and death. In general, anyone with bloody diarrhea should see a healthcare provider.

Learn more by reading the Washington State Department of Health and the Oregon Health Authority news releases.

Follow Public Health Insider for updates next week and beyond.


Uninsured in King County? Outreach team has a plan to help you


img_0004-crop (1)By Keith Seinfeld
Public Health – Seattle & King County

The Open Enrollment period for purchasing discount health insurance begins next week, and King County is offering free expert help – with special emphasis on areas where large numbers of uninsured people live and work.

Those areas include south King County cities such as Auburn and Federal Way, along with some neighborhoods in Seattle and Bellevue. Some of the major enrollment events this year include:

Health insurance Navigators preparing for an enrollment event at Southcenter Mall, Nov. 2014

  • Sat. Nov. 7 – Seattle City Hall, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Nov. 14 – The Outlet Collection (mall), Auburn, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Nov. 21 – Bellevue Crossroads Shopping Center, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Jan. 9 – Third Place Commons, Lake Forest Park, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Jan. 16 – Federal Way Commons, 10am-3pm

Health insurance assistance will also return to public library branches in neighborhoods across the county. Continue reading


Court orders TB patient to comply with treatment


tb-imageBy James Apa
Public Health – Seattle & King County

For what is believed to be only the sixth time in more than a decade, Public Health – Seattle & King County has taken the rare step of seeking a court order to detain a potentially contagious patient who resisted treatment for tuberculosis.

On October 23, King County Superior Court issued an order for electronic home detention. The patient is currently complying with the court order and receiving treatment.

Dr. Masa Narita, Public Health’s TB control officer, said such action is always a last resort but was necessary in this case to protect the health of the community.

“Tuberculosis can be infectious without treatment, so to prevent others from being exposed to TB in the community and to prevent development of drug resistant TB, a person with active TB needs to be treated with antibiotics consistently for several months,” Narita ai. “This person did not comply with treatment on numerous occasions, which puts the patient at risk for a prolonged illness or dying and puts others at risk as well.”

Treating TB Continue reading


Can Yelp help track food poisoning outbreaks?


yelp-logoBy Barbara Feder Ostrov

When a Shigella outbreak at a San Jose, Calif. seafood restaurant sickened dozens of people last weekend, Yelp reviewers were on the case – right alongside public health officials.

“PLEASE DO NOT EAT HERE!!!!” Pauline A. wrote in her Oct. 18 review of the Mariscos San Juan #3 restaurant. “My sister in and brother-in-law along with his parents ate here Friday night and all four of them ended up in the hospital with food poisoning!!!”

Research suggests that Yelp reviews may act as an early warning system or identify potential patients that public health officials might not otherwise have found in their food-borne illness investigations.

That same day, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department shut down the restaurant. Two days later, officials announced that more than 80 people who had eaten there had become acutely ill, with many requiring hospitalization. Twelve diners went to intensive care units.

Since then, the outbreak has grown to  more than 90 cases in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Continue reading


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