Category Archives: Prevention

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


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.


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


Workplace wellness programs put employee privacy at risk


wellness-sig-2By Jay Hancock

Houston workers who checked the fine print said they weren’t sure whether they were joining an employee wellness program or a marketing scheme.

Last fall the city of Houston required employees to tell an online wellness company about their disease history, drug and seat-belt use, blood pressure and other delicate information.

Whether or not your health information stays private is anything but clear, an examination by Kaiser Health News shows.

The company, hired to improve worker health and lower medical costs, could pass the data to “third party vendors acting on our behalf,” according to an authorization form. The information might be posted in areas “that are reviewable to the public.” It might also be “subject to re-disclosure” and “no longer protected by privacy law.”

Employees could refuse to give permission or opt not to take the screen, called a health risk assessment — but only if they paid an extra $300 a year for medical coverage.

“We don’t mind giving our information to our health care providers,” said Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, which objected so strongly along with other employees that the city switched to a different program. “But we don’t want to give it to a vendor that has carte blanche to give that information to anybody they want to.”

Millions of people find themselves in the same position as that of the Houston cops. As more employers grasp wellness as the latest promised solution to soaring health costs, they’re pressuring workers to give unfamiliar companies detailed data about the most sensitive parts of their lives.


But whether or not that information stays private is anything but clear, an examination by Kaiser Health News shows. Continue reading


7 questions to ask your employer about wellness privacy


Question markBy Jay Hancock and Julie Appleby

If your company hasn’t launched a wellness program, this might be the year.

As benefits enrollment for 2016 approaches, more employers than ever are expected to nudge workers toward plans that screen them for risks, monitor their activity and encourage them to take the right pills, food and exercise.

Q. What information will my employer see?
Q. How many other companies see my wellness data?

This involves a huge collection of health data outside the established medical system, not only by wellness vendors such as RedbrickAudax and Vitality but also by companies offering gym services, smartphone apps and devices that track steps and heartbeats. Such partners pass worker results to the wellness providers.

Standards to keep such information confidential have developed more slowly than the industry. That raises risks it could be abused for workplace discrimination, credit screening or marketing, consumer advocates say.

Here’s what to ask about your company’s plan. Continue reading


Q&A: Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on attacking the drug epidemic


VermontBy Elaine S. Povich

In January 2014, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to the opiate drug scourge ravaging his state. While Vermont is not the only state to experience the growing addiction problem, it arguably has been the most aggressive in tackling one aspect of it — offering treatment to residents who agree to participate.

Gov. Shumlin

Gov. Shumlin

Within six months of his speech, Shumlin, a Democrat, signed bills and executive orders that included $6.7 million for a “hub and spoke” treatment program of central facilities and small treatment outposts, a medication-assisted addiction therapy program, tougher sentences for drug traffickers and new regulations for prescribing and monitoring prescription drugs. One of biggest changes is giving people who are picked up by police the choice of treatment instead of criminal prosecution.

In January 2015, the state reported that medically assisted drug treatment had increased by 40 percent. Of those who completed treatment plans, 75 percent showed improved functioning. But the report also said more treatment opportunities are needed, citing the difficulty in hiring and retaining clinicians and other health care providers as a major obstacle.

A year and a half after his groundbreaking speech, Stateline checked in with Shumlin to talk about his progress and what remains to be done. Continue reading


States pressed to increase efforts to reduce drownings


life-jacket-float By Michael Ollove

Accidental drowning is the second leading cause of death for U.S. children under age 5, after birth defects. For youngsters under 15, only traffic accidents are responsible for more deaths by injury. And while drowning rates have declined slightly since the turn of the century, African Americans continue to die from drowning at considerably higher rates than whites.

Faced with such stubborn figures, public health advocates and researchers complain that state and local governments aren’t doing enough to prevent drowning deaths. Critics say most states don’t have sufficient laws or don’t enforce laws that could lessen the chances of drowning, such as requirements for fencing around private pools and the presence of trained lifeguards. And, they say, too little is being done to make sure that children have swim lessons and water safety skills.

“There is so much that can and should be done,” said Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Injury Research and Policy. Continue reading


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

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


States where pot is legal struggle with ‘drugged driving’


Cannabis_leaf_marijuana_potBy Sarah Breitenbach

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Mark Crandall half-jokingly says he can tell a driver is under the influence of marijuana during a traffic stop when the motorist becomes overly familiar and is calling him “dude.”

The truth in the joke, Crandall says, is that attitude and speech patterns can be effective markers for drugged driving. Continue reading


Lessons for the Puget Sound from Chicago’s deadly Heat Wave


heat-wave1-e1438208691939By Ashley Kelmore
Public Health – Seattle & King County

Our hotter-than-usual summer in the Pacific Northwest likely won’t reach the extremes of the 1995 Chicago summer heat wave, which killed 733 people.

But some of the issues from that catastrophe are relevant to us here and now, and Dr. Eric Klinenberg describes them in his fascinating book Heat Wave.

Klinenberg proposes that the temperature and humidity are not solely to blame for illness and death from heat.

Instead, it is the heat combined with the systems society has set up (or not set up) that failed people in a complicated way.

Similar neighborhoods, deadly differences

Klinenberg focuses on comparing two neighborhoods that are similar in basic demographics, and even have the same microclimate, but had VERY different death rates.

To explain this disparity, he looks at how the different neighborhoods function. Are people too scared to leave their buildings to seek cooler locations (such as libraries or movie theaters)?

Are they too worried about their finances to turn on the life-saving window AC unit to cool themselves down?

Are they isolated from support systems that could have intervened to make sure they were doing okay? In many cases, the answers are “yes,” “yes,” and “yes.”

Chicago’s government and how they responded (or failed to respond) was also a factor, according to Klinenberg.

Front-line police officers were tasked with community policing but didn’t check in on the community.

Fire chiefs ignored warnings from their staff that they should have more ambulances available.

And sadly, the health commissioner didn’t really ‘get’ that something was amiss. Klinenberg also explores the role the media played in not treating the story with the gravity it deserved until late into the heat wave. Continue reading