Farmers targeting toxo-carrying feral cats in NZ

An Ontario friend arranged for three kittens for me and my daughters about 12 years ago from their local shelter. was a dairy farmer and used to horrify the kids with how he shot stray kitties.

People would randomly abandon cats on his dairy farm, believing cartoons about cats and milk.

He wasn’t going to lose his livelihood to some unwanted cat.

Farmers in New Zealand are doing the same thing.

Feral cats carrying toxoplasmosis are the target of a predator programme that could save Hawke’s Bay farmers in excess of $4.5 million dollars a year.

A monitoring programme testing ewes on six farms, as part of the Cape to City predator programme, has found that up to 30 per cent of sheep carry the disease, which causes a high abortion rate in pregnant ewes.

Three “experimental” farms within the 26,000-hectare Cape to City footprint tested feral cats and mice for toxoplasmosis while three control farms outside of the footprint tested mice only.

Sixty sheep on each farm have also been sample tested to form a baseline across the farms that have been matched in size, stocking density and habitat.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Biosecurity adviser Rod Dickson said the baseline was high but “that was expected” and by reducing feral cats, it is hoped abortion rates will decrease.

braunwynn.kittens.03“Feral cats are one of the main carriers of toxoplasmosis and if we can reduce the numbers of feral cats, we have a good chance of reducing the high abortion rate in ewes.

“This could provide a significant economic benefit for farmers,” he said.

Mr Dickson said toxoplasma is highly prevalent in New Zealand sheep flocks with a recent survey testing 198 ewe flocks revealed 85 per cent of sheep had been exposed to the disease.

Sheep become infected from eating contaminated food such as pasture, concentrate feeds and hay.

Once ingested, the disease spreads to the sheep’s muscles and brain ” and also to the placenta. Shielded from the ewe’s defence system the parasite multiplies rapidly, killing cells as infection spreads.

And my cats? Lucky wasn’t so lucky and didn’t make it out of Guelph. The two black ones had a long life roaming the forest in our Kansas backyard and, brought us gifts every morning.

Language and disease control: A partnership made with my partner

We knew it 10 years ago.

ebola.language.nov.15Others knew it centuries ago.

Universities and government are now reinventing the wheel.

Since July 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control  has sent staff on almost 3,000 deployments to support the Ebola response in West Africa, the United States, and elsewhere around the world. Responders fill a variety of roles, from disease detectives, to laboratorians, to logisticians, to health communication experts. Allison Friedman, a CDC health communication specialist, deployed to Guinea in the summer of 2015 to provide communication support for CDC’s Health Promotion team.

“I wanted to play a role in this historic effort and offer any help my skills could offer,” she says. Allison spent three months in CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) before being deployed to West Africa. Being a French speaker with a background in behavioral science and health communication made Allison a perfect candidate for working at the community-level in Guinea.

While in Guinea, Allison’s job was to work with response teams going into communities to interact face-to-face with them. Social mobilization teams teach communities about preventing and controlling Ebola through door-to-door campaigns, village meetings, and educational sessions. Anthropologists help response organizations by conducting rapid assessments of communities to better understand the cultural, social, and individual factors that influence community attitudes and behaviors related to Ebola prevention and control. Allison helped bridge the gap between the anthropology and social mobilization teams, offering technical assistance with rapid assessments and ensuring that findings were translated into meaningful communication strategies and tools for social mobilizers. Together, the teams spoke with community members about their needs, concerns, perceptions, and proposed solutions for improving the Ebola response. Communities also got a chance to ask and answer questions about Ebola and ways to protect their families, friends, and neighbors.

One of the biggest challenges that Allison noticed in speaking with communities was the conflict between key infection control practices and prevailing traditions and cultural norms. “There are strategies we know to be effective in stopping the spread of Ebola, but convincing people to set aside their deeply held beliefs and practices, like preparing a loved one’s body for burial in the traditional way, is a very difficult thing to do,” says Allison. “It was especially hard in communities without recent Ebola cases, where villagers didn’t see the need to continue with safe and dignified burials.”

An added challenge was gaining the trust of communities that are accustomed to seeking health care from known local healers and do not trust the government or foreign agencies. Communities were more open to accepting prevention and control measures once they received tailored information, reinforced by trusted community and religious leaders and supported by real-life testimonials from Ebola survivors in their areas.

When she returned to the United States, Allison extended her time in the EOC to support efforts in Guinea from the health promotion team in Atlanta, GA. This gave her the opportunity to leverage CDC resources to create needed messages and tools for use in the field. The health promotion team here supports staff in West Africa with Ebola-related communication research, planning, development, and evaluation.

Although there were challenges working in Guinea, Allison says that she found it very rewarding to work with such kind, committed, and patient people on such an important cause.

“I feel deeply enriched by my experiences working with communities and committed partners in the field. I am humbled and awed by the strength of the Guinean people – particularly the Ebola-affected families who have endured losses beyond what most of us can imagine and who continue to face stigma, discrimination and challenges meeting basic needs.”

Finally, she says “I’d also like to give immense credit to my CDC colleagues who have and currently are deployed to West Africa, working tirelessly, with a focus on getting to zero. With their passion, commitment, and perseverance, we are closer than ever to reaching this goal.”

Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease): Health communication in Guinea and Atlanta


Allison Friedman, Gary Cobb, Arthur Hudson, and Drenda Morrissette, John Saindon and Brian Bird, Karen Wong, Angela Dunn, Brant Goode

PR 101: Campylobacter still present on 76% of UK birds, but heavy contamination is down! Steaming hot sucks

The results for the first quarter of testing, from July to September 2015, show a decrease in the number of birds with the highest level of contamination from the same months last year.

chickenpurseThese most heavily contaminated birds are the focus of the current target agreed by industry, which is equivalent to no more than 7% of chickens at retail having the highest levels of contamination. Research has shown that reducing the proportion of birds in this category will have the biggest positive impact on public health.

The new data shows 15% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination, down from 22% in July to September 2014. Campylobacter was present on 76% of chicken samples, down from 83% in the same months of last year.

The results for the first quarter show:

15% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination*

76% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter

0.3% of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination

6% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter

*More than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.

In this first quarter, 1,032 samples of fresh whole chilled UK-produced chickens and packaging have been tested. The chickens were bought from large UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The new survey commenced sampling in July 2015.

The FSA has been testing chickens for campylobacter since February 2014 and publishing the results as part of its campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, making an estimated 280,000 people ill every year.

As with the previous survey, the data shows variations between the retailers. Testing of chickens from Co-op and Waitrose show both retailers have made the most significant reductions in the proportion of the chickens they sell that are most highly-contaminated.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA said: ‘It is good to see that some retailers are getting to grips with campylobacter. However, we want to see all of them pulling together to achieve real and lasting reductions.

‘I am also pleased that we are starting to see retailers and processors being open with consumers about what they are doing to tackle the problem and about the impact their interventions are having on the chickens they are selling.’

But FSA continues to insist chicken is safe as long as consumers follow good kitchen practice:

chicken.thermCover and chill raw chicken: Cover raw chicken and store on the bottom shelf of the fridge so juices cannot drip on to other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter;

Don’t wash raw chicken: Cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing;

Wash hands and used utensils:  Thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, after handling raw chicken. This helps stop the spread of campylobacter by avoiding cross contamination.

Cook chicken thoroughly:  Make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut in to the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.

Steaming hot sucks, especially for a science-based agency.


Antimicrobial resistance in Europe

In relation to the 8th European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published the annual report of the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net) [1]. On the same occasion, an update with 2014 data of the EARS-Net interactive database on antimicrobial resistance [2] and the European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption Network (ESAC-Net) interactive database on antimicrobial consumption [3] was released, on the ECDC website.

ab.res.prudent.may.14The data on antimicrobial resistance showed that the percentages of Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates resistant to fluoroquinolones, third-generation cephalosporins and aminoglycosides, as well as combined resistance to all three antibiotic groups increased significantly at European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) level over the last four years. A significant increase was also observed for carbapenem resistance in K. pneumoniae.

For Escherichia coli, resistance to third-generation cephalosporins and combined resistance to fluoroquinolones, third-generation cephalosporins and aminoglycosides increased significantly at EU/EEA level. The increase in combined resistance, and the increase in resistance to last line groups of antimicrobials such as the carbapenems, is a serious cause for concern and a threat to patient safety in Europe.

Data on antimicrobial consumption in 2014 show that the overall consumption of antimicrobials in the community in the EU/EEA was 21.6 defined daily doses (DDD) per 1,000 inhabitants and per day. The large inter-country variation in antibiotic consumption observed in previous years remained. When antibiotic consumption was expressed in terms of number of packages (a better estimate for prescriptions) per 1,000 inhabitants and per day, five countries (Denmark, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) showed a significant decrease during 2010–2014.

During the same period, antibiotic consumption in the hospital sector (expressed in DDD per 1,000 inhabitants and per day) showed a significant increasing trend. A significant increase in the consumption of specific antibiotic groups, e.g. carbapenems, was also observed during this period at EU/EEA level, and in several countries. Although the vast majority of antibiotics is consumed in the community, i.e. outside hospitals, antibiotic consumption in hospitals is a major driver of the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria responsible for healthcare-associated infections.


European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Antimicrobial resistance surveillance in Europe 2014. Annual Report of the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net). Stockholm: ECDC; 2015. Available from

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Antimicrobial resistance interactive database (EARS-Net). Stockholm: ECDC. [Accessed 19 Nov 2015]. Available from

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Antimicrobial resistance interactive database (EARS-Net). Stockholm: ECDC. [Accessed 19 Nov 2015]. Available from

Cook with thermometers: Campy in UK supermarkets, oh and surveys suck

The Food Standards Agency is Thursday to publish the results of its latest UK supermarket survey, testing for the deadly bug Campylobacter in chickens on sale.

chicken.thermdsA study led by Professor Dan Rigby at The University of Manchester found that almost three-quarters of consumers still do not associate the pathogen – the most common cause of food poisoning – with the chickens that they buy.

Professor Rigby said: “Following the headlines – one year ago – about the amount of contaminated chicken on supermarket shelves, we surveyed 900 people and found that only 28% associated Campylobacter with poultry and most still significantly underestimated the rate of contamination of chickens for sale in the UK .

“These findings show there is still a huge amount of work to be done to reduce the problem of Campylobacter infection; a problem which costs the UK around £900m annually.”

“There is still a huge amount of work to be done to reduce the problem of Campylobacter infection; a problem which costs the UK around £900m annually -Professor Dan Rigby”

Other key findings include:

One third of people interviewed shortly after last year’s headlines said they could not recall the story.

Less than half [40%] said they would change their behaviour at all as a result of the news, most citing changes to the way they handled or cooked chicken.

Just over a third of the sample correctly identified the retailer which had just been revealed as having the highest contamination rate.

Retailers are failing to promote the food safety benefits of ‘roast in the bag’ chickens.

Stomach bug sweeps 49ers world titles

I didn’t know David Gilmore was a sailor.

49er_skiff.svgA stomach bug has many sailors at the 49er world championships off Buenos Aires battling bouts of vomiting and diarrhea.

“We don’t really know why everyone is getting sick, but at least a third of the fleet has come down with stomach pains, diarrhea and vomiting,” said Australia’s Olympic gold medallist Nathan Outteridge.

Outteridge’s crewmate Iain Jensen was among those hit by the bug.

Outteridge said the water wasn’t clean and recent thunderstorms and rain had pushed filth onto the race course, which most sailors hadn’t expected in Argentina.

“In Rio everyone knows it’s dirty and takes precautions accordingly and looks after themselves, whereas here everyone gets told it’s just muddy water, but there’s a lot of filth in there as well,” he said.

With one more day of racing before the fleet splits for the men’s skiff 49er finals series, Outteridge and Jensen sit 17th, while Joel Turner and Lewis Brake are in 23rd.

David Gilmour and Rhys Mara follow in 27th, and Will and Sam Phillips are ranked 28th.

Bleach is your friend: produce contamination in the Middle East

My former dean was known as Dr. Clorox while serving in Vietnam.

produce.cloroxI used to give these training sessions to food types headed for Iraq and Afghanistan from Fort Riley (in Manhattan, Kansas) and would sheepishly say, I have no idea what you’re going to face in terms of potable water, but bleach is your friend.

We take so much for granted.

In the developing countries, inaccessibility to safe water, lack of agricultural infrastructures and limitations to implementing good agricultural practices (GAP) are persistent challenges.

To understand the spread of hazards and identify critical areas of transmission in the food chain, a total of 90 samples of raw salad vegetables (parsley, lettuce, radish) were collected from farms and post-harvest washing facilities (n = 12) in an extensively cultivated area in Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and from wholesale market stalls traced back to surveyed fields.

Our results showed high geometric mean indicator levels ranging from <0.7 to 7 log CFU/g (Escherichia coli), 1.69–8.16 log CFU/g (total coliforms), <0.7–8.39 log CFU/g (Staphylococcus aureus). The mean counts of total coliforms and E. coli on fresh produce followed an increasing trend from fields to the markets indicating potential sources of fecal contamination throughout the food chain. Of more concern was the presence of pathogens Listeria monocytogenes (14%) and S. aureus (45.5%) in fresh produce from harvest to retail, and Salmonella spp. was detected in 6.7% of the raw vegetables from the post-harvest washing areas.

the_first_bleach_bottle_by_thebleachbottle-d5h2xeyThese results along with our observations highlight shortfalls in hygienic farming and postharvest practices, including the use of inappropriately treated manure and chicken litter to fertilize the crops on the fields which contributed to the high levels of S. aureus in the product at retail. Unregulated use of wash water, inadequate transportation and storage conditions with risks of cross contamination was also identified.

Suggested control measures should mitigate the risks at the source and put emphasis on developing strict policies on monitoring the safety of water sources and on the application of the good agricultural and hygienic practices (GAP, GHP) on primary production stages, washing, transportation and storage at retail.

 Understanding the routes of contamination of ready-to-eat vegetables in the Middle East

Food Control, Volume 62, April 2016, Pages 125–133

Dima Faour-Klingbeil, Muhammad Murtada, Victor Kuri, Ewen C.D. Todd


Dirt possible source of botulism in California infant

Botulism is so rare the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note only approximately 145 cases are reported yearly – 65% of those are infant botulism.

Here in San Diego, the county’s latest stats show 3 cases from 2009-2013. While people are familiar with honey containing the bacteria for infant botulism, Bri Escobar was surprised to find her daughter may have contracted the bacteria when her father unknowingly brought dirt home from his construction job.

“Spores grow in the ground and when a baby under 6 months inhales or ingest it their intestines are like a good area for that botulism toxin to grow,” Escobar explained.

She’s not a doctor, but after a week at Rady Children’s Hospital, she’s had to learn a lot about what’s ailing her daughter.

She said her daughter is slowly starting to regain the movement she lost a week ago and getting her personality back.

Buffett from hell: 31 sickened with Staph at a horsey event in Luxembourg

In June 2014, a staphylococcal food poisoning outbreak occurred at an international equine sports event in Luxembourg requiring the hospitalization of 31 persons.

horseWe conducted a microbiological investigation of patients and buffet items, a case–control study and a carriage study of catering staff. Isolates of Staphylococcus aureus from patients, food and catering staff were characterized and compared using traditional typing methods and whole genome sequencing.

Identical strains (sequence type ST8, spa-type t024, MLVA-type 4698, enterotoxin A FRI100) were isolated in 10 patients, shiitake mushrooms, cured ham, and in three members of staff. The case–control study strongly suggested pasta salad with pesto as the vehicle of infection (p<0.001), but this food item could not be tested, because there were no leftovers. Additional enterotoxigenic strains genetically unrelated to the outbreak strain were found in four members of staff. Non-enterotoxigenic strains with livestock-associated sequence type ST398 were isolated from three food items and two members of staff.

The main cause of the outbreak is likely to have been not maintaining the cold chain after food preparation. Whole genome sequencing resulted in phylogenetic clustering which concurred with traditional typing while simultaneously characterizing virulence and resistance traits.

 Investigation of a Staphylococcal food poisoning outbreak combining case control, traditional typing, and whole genome sequencing methods

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 45, November 2015

  1. Mossong, F. Decruyenaere, G. Moris, C. Ragimbeau, C.M. Olinger, S. Johler, M. Perrin, P. Hau, P. Weicherding