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.


Even with a high-deductible plans, some services may be covered without cost to you


Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Michelle Andrews

As the open enrollment period for health insurance through the state and federal marketplaces got underway on Sunday, consumers have questions about how the process works and how to choose the best plan to meet their needs.

Q. I like the low premiums of marketplace plans with high deductibles, but even though I’m pretty healthy, I’m worried about having to pay for everything until I meet that deductible. Is there any way around that? Continue reading


Citing cost to taxpayers, cities and states tackle obesity


ScaleBy Teresa Wiltz

More than 35 percent of Arkansas adults are obese, making it the heaviest state in the nation.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson looked at those numbers and saw two problems: an increased risk of all sorts of health challenges, and an increased burden on taxpayers.

Armed with data about the devastating effects of obesity, Hutchinson, a Republican, last month launched a 10-year plan to combat the problem in his state, from tightening nutritional standards in schools to creating more walkable communities and improving access to affordable, healthy foods.

“I’m a conservative,” Hutchinson said. “I’m concerned about tax dollars as well as good health. There’s a consequence to the taxpayer because of bad health habits.”

Arkansas isn’t the only state to take on obesity this year. Governors in New York, Georgia and Tennessee have all announced plans to combat high rates of obesity among their citizens.

Nationwide, a third of all adults—78 million—are obese, up nearly 50 percent since 1990, according to Health Intelligence, a health data analysis site.

The top 10 heaviest states are in the South and the Midwest, according to a new report by the State of Obesity, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, an advocacy and research group based in Washington, D.C.sln_obesitytable

Cities and states have a vested interest in tackling the issue. Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher, is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and can cause a host of chronic health issues, from diabetes to high blood pressure to cancer.  Continue reading


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


Why have nearly half of the Obamacare co-ops have folded? – PBS Newshour


As open enrollment begins for the health exchanges, one development that’s turning into a concern is the collapse of a number of alternative insurance plans known as co-ops. Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News joins Judy Woodruff to answer real Americans’ questions about shopping for coverage.


Ready, steady … go!



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Open Enrollment is here, and it’s time to join the millions of people who have quality and affordable coverage from HealthCare.gov. Submit your application today.

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8 out of 10 people who enrolled in a health insurance plan qualified for financial help. In fact, most people can find a health insurance plan for $75 or less per month. Visit HealthCare.gov to see what you can save!

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DEADLINE: December 15.

The HealthCare.gov Team


Top 5 stories of the week




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.


You can find affordable coverage on insurance exchange — but you have to shop, government says


ACA health reform logoFrom the US Department of Health and Human Services

A new report detailing affordability and plan choice in the Health Insurance Marketplace finds that with applicable tax credits, more than 7 in 10 current Marketplace enrollees could find plans for $75 a month in premiums or less, and almost 8 in 10 could find plans for $100 a month in premiums or less.

For returning consumers, more than 7 in 10 can find plans for $75 a month in premiums or less; more than 8 in 10 could save an average of $610 annually in premiums before tax credits by shopping.

Consumers who return to the Marketplace to comparison shop could save money.

According to today’s report, more than 8 in 10 returning Marketplace consumers could save an average of about $50 per month and $610 annually in premiums before tax credits for the same level of coverage by returning to shop.

If all consumers switched from their current plan to the lowest-cost premium plan in the same metal level, the total savings – to consumers and taxpayers (in premiums and tax credits) – would be $4.5 billion.

In 2015, about one-third of consumers who reenrolled in a Marketplace plan switched to a new plan. Continue reading


Oregon teen contracts plague


An Oregon teen has contracted bubonic plague, state health officials report. The girl is believed to have acquired the disease from a flea bite during a hunting trip near Heppner in Morrow County that started on Oct. 16.

She reportedly fell ill on Oct. 21 and was hospitalized in Bend on Oct. 24. She is recovering in the hospital;s intensive care unit.

Oregon Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologists are working with health officials in Crook, Deschutes and Morrow counties to investigate the illness.

No other persons are believed to have been infected.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 8.29.49 AM

Plague is an infectious bacterial disease that is carried by squirrels, chipmunks, and other wild rodents and their fleas. When an infected rodent becomes sick and dies, its fleas can carry the infection to other warm-blooded animals or humans through bites. Continue reading


Costs keep low-income patients from clinical trials, study


$100-dollar bill inside a capsuleBy Michelle Andrews

Cancer patients with lower incomes are a third less likely to be part of clinical trials that could help treat their disease than those whose annual income is at least $50,000, according to a new study.

Researchers suggest that covering some of the costs of participating in a research study might enhance enrollment.

Clinical trials, which test new treatments or prevention methods to determine whether they are safe and effective, are an essential component of medical research. Yet only a small percentage of eligible patients participate in them.

One of the main reasons clinical trials fail is because they don’t get enough people to enroll.

One of the main reasons clinical trials fail is because they don’t get enough people to enroll. If the number of patients who participate could be doubled or quadrupled, many more trials could be completed, says Joseph Unger, biostatistician and health services researcher in cancer clinical trials at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Continue reading


Proposed rule would allow workplace wellness programs to collect some genetic information on employees


431px-Lewis_Hine_Power_house_mechanic_working_on_steam_pumpBy Julie Appleby

Federal regulators on Thursday announced a proposed rule allowing voluntary employer workplace wellness programs to ask for health information, including some limited genetic details, from participants and their spouses.

According to a statement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency “is mindful that this change creates an exception to the general rule that no incentives may be provided for an employee’s genetic information. Therefore, the agency has interpreted the exception as narrowly as possible.” The release also notes that this exception does not apply to children.

Proposal allows financial incentives to encourage employees’ participation be set as high as 30 percent of the cost of a family health plan, which can amount to thousands of dollars.

The proposal, which aims to amend rules related to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, also extends the ability of employers to seek health information from workers’ spouses who are covered by their workplace health insurance plans. This can include asking them to fill out health risk questionnaires or have medical exams, so long as the programs are considered voluntary.

Employer groups will likely be pleased by one provision in the proposal, which allows financial incentives to encourage employees’ participation be set as high as 30 percent of the cost of a family health plan, which can amount to thousands of dollars. Continue reading


Enrollment Guide: Tips on how to shop for a marketplace lan


Shopping CartBy Mary Agnes Carey

Open enrollment for the health law’s 2016 marketplace plans begins Sunday, and federal officials caution consumers to check out premium prices because in many places they may be higher. But officials are planning to offer new features to make the process faster and smoother for consumers.

They can already do some window-shopping for plans on the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov.  A new feature that may help some customers is an online, out-of-pocket expense calculator on the website to help estimate how much they will pay in deductibles and co-payments in addition to the monthly premiums.

Answers to these and other questions:

  • I enrolled on healthcare.gov last year. Do I have to do it again?
  • I want to buy health insurance but can’t afford it. What should I do?
  • What if I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but still can’t afford to buy coverage?
  • What if I have health problems?
  • I get health coverage at work and want to keep my current plan. Can I do that?
  • I didn’t get health insurance in 2015. What is going to happen to me now?
  • I own a business. Will I have to buy health insurance for my workers?

Continue reading