Don’t kiss that turtle, stop touching that bearded dragon and stop touching yourself: CDC reports 132 sick in multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Cotham

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collaborating with public health, veterinary, and agriculture officials in many states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Cotham infections linked to contact with pet bearded dragons purchased from multiple stores in different states.

bearded_dragon_picBearded dragons are popular pet lizards, native to Australia (sure, blame Australia), that come in a variety of colors. Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.

On January 22, 2014, CDC was notified by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services of a cluster of Salmonella Cotham infections with a high proportion of ill persons reporting exposure to pet reptiles. Since 2012, there have been 12 ill persons infected with Salmonella Cotham in Wisconsin, and 10 (83%) of 12 persons reported contact with pet bearded dragons. Wisconsin receives funding under the CDC FoodCORE (Foodborne Diseases Centers for Outbreak Response Enhancement) program. These centers work together to develop new and better methods to detect, investigate, respond to, and control multistate outbreaks of foodborne diseases.

Salmonella Cotham is a rare serotype. Searching historical Salmonella databases, CDC determined that Salmonella Cotham represents only 0.01% of all human isolates in the United States since 1963. Before this outbreak, typically less than 25 Salmonella Cotham infections were reported to PulseNet annually. Given the rarity of the Cotham serotype and the information gathered by Wisconsin, CDC conducted a search of PulseNet for all Salmonella Cotham infections reported since 2012.

As of April 21, 2014, a total of 132 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Cotham have been reported from 31 states since February 21, 2012. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows (listed in alphabetical order): Arizona (4), California (21), Colorado (2), Florida (3), Georgia (1), Idaho (3), Illinois (6), Kansas (6), Kentucky (4), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (5), Minnesota (3), Missouri (7), Nebraska (1), Nevada (3), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (3), New York (10), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (5), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (5), Texas (6), Utah (3), Virginia (3), Washington (4), and Wisconsin (12).

Among 132 persons for whom information is available, dates that illnesses began range from February 20, 2012 to April 1, 2014. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 79 years, with a median age of 2 years. Fifty-eight percent of ill persons are children 5 years of age or younger. Fifty-one percent of ill persons are female. Among 67 ill persons with available information, 28 (42%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

On March 25, 2014, CDC sent a questionnaire to the states involved in the investigation to obtain more detailed information from ill persons about recent contact with reptiles. In interviews, ill persons answered questions about contact with animals and foods consumed during the week before becoming ill. To date, CDC has received a total of 31 completed questionnaires. Twenty-seven (87%) of 31 persons interviewed reported contact with reptiles or their environments before becoming ill. When asked about the type of reptile, 25 (81%) of 31 persons reported contact with lizards; of these 25 persons, 21 (84%) specifically reported contact with bearded dragons, a type of lizard. The percentage of ill persons in this outbreak reporting contact with a reptile is substantially higher than the percentage of U.S. households that reported owning a pet reptile in a survey conducted in 2013-2014 by the American Pet Products Association (5.6%). State and local health departments are continuing to interview ill persons.

The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory has isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Cotham from samples from a pet bearded dragon and its terrarium (habitat) collected from an ill person’s home in Oregon.

Lynne Terry of The Oregonian reports Oregon scientists cracked the case after a baby in Marion County got sick. Emilio DeBess, a Public Health Division epidemiologist, decided to investigate. Taking time on his lunch hour in early April, he visited the home and collected nine samples, swabbing two bearded dragons and the surrounding environment. Eight samples turned up positive for the rare strain involved in the outbreak.

DeBess said the baby, who is less than 1 years old, had no contact with the reptiles, which are kept by the parents. The baby was not even allowed in the same room.

Playing the numbers, Salmonella-at-Cuban-resort edition

When barfing endlessly, it’s of little comfort to know you represent only 1.5% of possible barfers.

Yet that is the insensitive numbers game tour operators like Thomas Cook continue to play when they confirm 29 cases of “mild illness” reported by guests staying at the Hotel Playa Pesquero in Cuba in the first two weeks of April.

vomit(7)“This represents just 1.5% of the overall hotel population of 1,800,” the operator said.

The operator disputed allegations made by holiday illness compensation specialists Your Holiday Claims that 80% of holidaymakers had fallen ill due to an outbreak of Salmonella at the hotel.

Your Holiday Claims alleged that many British holidaymakers had been taken to hospital during their stay. Many were believed to be on saline drips for severe dehydration after being violently ill, the law firm said.

Cook responded by saying: “We are aware that a statement was recently issued by a no-win, no-fee lawyer.

“This repeated as yet unsubstantiated allegations and we consider this to be deeply irresponsible.”

Canada’s chicken farmers ban injections that trigger resistance

Canadian chicken farmers are putting an end to controversial egg injections, which provided the world with a “textbook” example of the perils of mass medication.

By injecting eggs at hatcheries with ceftiofur, a medically important antibiotic, the farmers triggered the rise of resistant microbes that showed up in both chickens and in Canadians creating a “major” public health concern.

double-facepalm1The case  – documented by federal and provincial sleuths who track microbes at farms, slaughterhouses and retail meat counters – is held up as powerful evidence of resistant superbugs moving from farm to fork.

“It is going to be in medical textbooks for as long as there are textbooks around,” says John Prescott, a professor with the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

On May 15 injecting eggs with ceftiofur will be banned as part of a new antibiotics policy adopted by Chicken Farmers of Canada, representing the 2,700 poultry farmers across the country.

“The industry has gone ahead and done this voluntarily, but it is not a voluntary program,” says Steve Leech, the association’s national programs manager.  He says the ban is mandatory with penalties and fines for violators.

While the ban is better late than never, Prescott says government should have stopped the injections years ago.

Microbe trackers working with the Public Health Agency of Canada first reported in 2003 that they were picking up higher rates of ceftiofur resistance in Quebec.  In 2004, they reported resistance was just as high in Ontario “in both humans and chicken.”

A strain of bacteria called Salmonella Heidelberg, that can cause food poisoning, had armed itself with the biochemical machinery needed to resist ceftiofur. Ceftiofur belongs to a class of antibiotics known as cephalosporins, which are often used on hard-to-cure infections in people.

FunkyChickenHiThe scientists soon linked the rise of the resistant Salmonella to chicken hatcheries that were injecting  ceftiofur into eggs prophylactically to try prevent infections in chicks.

The way Canadian hatcheries were allowed to keep using ceftiofur highlights the “inability” of  Canadian health officials to stop inappropriate use of  antibiotics, says Prescott.

“There was clear evidence of an adverse effect on public health,” he says, but dealing with the issue fell between the “gaps” in federal and provincial regulations.

Ceftiofur was never approved by Health Canada for use in chickens or eggs but hatcheries used it “extra-label,” which falls under the provincial jurisdiction.

Salmonella, staph, poop on sushi that sickened 220 in Mexico

Salmonella, fecal waste and Staphylococcus aureus were the bacteria that caused food poisoning in 36 customers three branches of Qué Rollo Sushi (Sushi Roll) and sickened up to 220.

sushi.vomit.apr.12Sergio Olvera Alba, director of Epidemiology, Ministry of Health, revealed the results of laboratory outbreak sushi, then matched the isolates with human samples.

It’s an egg problem; Salmonella spike in South Australia linked to television cooking shows? Blame the consumer

A spike in food poisoning cases has been linked to South Australians undercooking eggs at home.

The new cases have sparked warnings from health authorities to be wary of attempting techniques used on television cooking shows.

SA Health figures show 353 cases of potentially life-threatening salmonellosis have been reported throughout the state so far this year. That is about a third more than the number of cases – 267 – reported at the same time last year.

celebrity.chefsAbout 15 per cent of cases this year were hospitalised.

SA Health director of food safety and nutrition Dr Fay Jenkins said that while raw chicken and other meat can lead to salmonella poisoning, undercooked eggs were believed to be responsible for the recent increase.

“Millions of eggs are eaten each week,” she said. “It’s the exposure we have to eggs. There is nothing that has linked these cases to a restaurant or anything like that.

“We believe it is linked to the handling of eggs at home.”

Dr Jenkins warned against using such techniques as the 60/60 method of cooking eggs at a lower temperature of 60C for the longer timeframe of 60 minutes, a method featured on the inanely boring television cooking show, My Kitchen Rules.

How about cross-contamination or the ritualistic use of raw eggs in many Australian restaurants? You’ve heard it from Dr. Jenkins. It’s up to you, Australian consumers.

I habitually ask if the aioli or mayo is made at a restaurant using raw eggs, and then don’t touch it. But I don’t eat out that often anymore.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information

01.may.04, Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A., Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334


Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely.

During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel.

On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. 

Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

WTF? 524 now confirmed sick with Salmonella linked to Foster Farms chicken

This is why microbial food safety should be marketed so consumers have a choice.

As of April 7, 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports a total of 524 people have been infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg from 25 states and Puerto Rico, since March 1, 2013.

Foster-Farms-Chicken-BreastCDC says it is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess interventions implemented at Foster Farms facilities to prevent future illnesses.

But people keep getting sick. And what are these interventions?

The lack of information, the lack of a recall despite continued illnesses, is sorta mind-numbing.

Just cook it doesn’t cut it.

Las Vegas’ Firefly has food safety problems again

In June 2013 Las Vegas’ Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar was linked to over 250 cases of salmonellosis. Investigators fingered cross-contaminated chorizo as the likely source. At the time of the outbreak owner Tabitha Simmons was quoted as saying, “It’s just sad because we’ve been vilified and we did not want anyone to get hurt. We certainly weren’t managing our restaurants poorly.” firefly-300x300

Uh huh.

According to Fox 5, Las Vegas health inspectors gave another Firefly location 38 inspection demerit points resulting in a C grade in March.

The owners of Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar acknowledged on Tuesday it received a “C” rating when inspectors for the Southern Nevada Health District inspected the eatery at 11261 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson on March 31.

Of the 38 demerits it incurred, Firefly was flagged for violations including those for handwashing, improper refrigeration of food, food improperly cooked at the proper temperature and failure to properly store food from potential contamination, according to SNHD’s website.

In a statement from Firefly owners John and Tabitha Simmons, the March 31 inspection was random. The owners also said the eatery was cited for 1-day-old expired food in the refrigerator.

The owners went on to say they corrected the violations within hours of the inspection. A subsequent inspection the following Friday, April 4, brought the restaurant’s rating back up to an “A,” the owners said on Tuesday.

Sure looks like they are managing their restaurants poorly, food safety-wise.

‘I wasn’t really informed’ spring chicks can bring Salmonella

Springtime and the approaching Easter holiday are causing concern among health officials.

This is the time of year people tend to buy chicks and ducklings for their backyard flocks. As a result, the number of people who become infected with salmonella spikes.

borat.chicken“While it’s fun for families to get baby birds, the bacteria they shed can make people sick,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, Washington health officer, in a news release. “This is especially true for young children, who account for the largest proportion of live poultry-related salmonella cases.”

Last year, 19 people in Washington were part of a multistate outbreak of salmonella associated with handling live poultry. Thirteen of the cases involved children younger than 10.

One of those children was Liz Wilson of Yacolt.

Liz, who was 3 at the time, became infected with salmonella in April 2013 after her family purchased nine chicks and two ducklings from a local farm store.

The family, which includes nine kids ranging in age from 4 to 16, purchased the chicks to raise for eggs, said Liz’s mother, Denise Kaski. Her husband, David Kaski, had chickens in the past and knew what it took to raise the birds, but they weren’t aware of the salmonella risk, Denise Kaski said.

“I wasn’t really informed,” she said.

infection. “The first thing a very small child is going to want to do is give these cute little chickies a little kiss,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health director and health officer. “That’s not a good thing to do.”

On April 4, 2013, about a week after the family brought the chicks home, Liz became lethargic, started vomiting, had bloody diarrhea and wouldn’t chicken.south.parkeat. She couldn’t even keep down what she was given through a feeding tube that is used to supplement her diet, Kaski said.

Liz was taken by ambulance to Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland. As doctors ran tests, Kaski started Googling Liz’s symptoms. She came across information about salmonella and told Liz’s doctor the family recently purchased chicks.

Liz has no lasting effects from the infection, but Kaski knows the situation could have been worse. The family got rid of the chickens, and Kaski warns others about Salmonella and the importance of hand-washing.

“I don’t want anybody else to have to get sick like that,” she said.

17 now sick with Salmonella from Welsh laverbread outbreak

Five new cases of Salmonella with possible links to laverbread have emerged in the past week bringing the total number to 17, said Public Health Wales.

Tests are continuing to confirm whether they are all linked to the outbreak, which has nine confirmed cases so far.

laverbreadCases have been reported across south and west Wales.

Three people have needed hospital treatment, but have been discharged.

Health officials said a study has confirmed a strong association with laverbread from Penclawdd Shellfish Processing Ltd, probably produced and distributed between 5 and 8 March.

Last week, the company voluntarily withdrew its laverbread from sale as a precaution.

Samples taken from its Swansea factory have not shown any evidence of Salmonella in either food or in the environment, said Public Health Wales.

Laverbread is the boiled and minced laver seaweed, often fried with bacon and cockles as a traditional Welsh breakfast dish. The seaweed is eaten worldwide, especially in Asia, and is often used in Japanese sushi dishes.

Australia still has an egg problem: farm linked to 220 Salmonella illnesses fires 5 workers, back in business

Ash Lewis was limp in his mother’s arms. The three-year-old boy had been sick for several days, in and out of the family doctor’s surgery and up all night with diarrhea.

That Sunday he had been happily playing on the beach at Torquay on Victoria’s west coast and later munching on an egg and cheese roll at a raw.egg_.mayo_.may_.13-300x221beachside cafe. He and his mother had left Melbourne to escape February’s heatwave.

By Thursday his condition had gone downhill fast. He stopped speaking and couldn’t walk. His parents, Scott and Sarina Lewis, rushed him to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. His blood pressure was down, his heart rate was low and his face was the ”colour of concrete.”

From the happy little boy playing in the sea he was now in hospital with an IV drip in his arm.

A stool sample taken from Ash confirmed he was infected with Salmonella causing gastroenteritis. The sandwich he ate at that cafe was prepared with mayonnaise made with free-range (but not microbiologically-safe) eggs.

Ash was one of about 220 people sickened with Salmonella linked to two Victoria, Australia, restaurants that were supplied by Green Eggs.

This week, the Victorian Health Department lifted a ban on raw egg products from the farm.

Media reports note that five workers were fired from the Green Eggs company last month.

Maybe they were the employees who didn’t have the Salmonella goggles.

And while an employee of the Victorian state government sent along its advice on using eggs — cook eggs until they are hot all the way through, but with no advice as to what hot all the way through actually means – the government utterly fails when it comes to enforcement.

Anyone who has been to an Australian restaurant will be offered a mayonnaise, salad dressing, béarnaise and hollandaise sauces, garlic.aioli_-300x300milkshakes with raw egg or an aioli dip that has been crafted by the chef using raw eggs, because no self-respecting chef would use a cooked product.

The Victorian government’s advice is that when in doubt, “read the label or get in touch with the manufacturer.”

There are no labels on those little containers of dip or the mayo on a sandwich. Good luck with that.

And why Australia continues to have an egg problem.

Seventy-seven diners who fell ill after eating at Canberra restaurant Copa Brazilian Churrasco last year are at present taking civil action against its owners in the ACT Supreme Court. A total of 140 people fell ill, with 15 taken to hospital, after eating home-made mayonnaise at the restaurant in May last year.

Here’s a tip: don’t use raw eggs.

Why won’t Australian government or industry or consumer groups make such a basic statement, and actively promote the message? Instead, consumers are told it’s their fault when they buy a sandwich made with raw egg mayo and get sick. And consumers pay for such terrible messages with tax dollars.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.