Is there an increase in multistate foodborne disease outbreaks—United States, 1973–2010?

Food Safety Talk podcast nerds Chapman and Schaffner are forever going on about Betteridge’s Law.

For the uninitiated, Betteridge’s Law states that “any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”

interstate-mdBetteridge himself stated, “The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.”

I use question marks in headlines to avoid lawsuits.

A new paper posits that changes in food production and distribution have increased opportunities for foods contaminated early in the supply chain to be distributed widely, increasing the possibility of multistate outbreaks.

In recent decades, surveillance systems for foodborne disease have been improved, allowing officials to more effectively identify related cases and to trace and identify an outbreak’s source.

Materials and Methods: We reviewed multistate foodborne disease outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System during 1973–2010. We calculated the percentage of multistate foodborne disease outbreaks relative to all foodborne disease outbreaks and described characteristics of multistate outbreaks, including the etiologic agents and implicated foods.

Results: Multistate outbreaks accounted for 234 (0.8%) of 27,755 foodborne disease outbreaks, 24,003 (3%) of 700,600 outbreak-associated illnesses, 2839 (10%) of 29,756 outbreak-associated hospitalizations, and 99 (16%) of 628 outbreak-associated deaths. The median annual number of multistate outbreaks increased from 2.5 during 1973–1980 to 13.5 during 2001–2010; the number of multistate outbreak-associated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths also increased. Most multistate outbreaks were caused by Salmonella (47%) and Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (26%). Foods most commonly implicated were beef (22%), fruits (13%), and leafy vegetables (13%).

Conclusions: The number of identified and reported multistate foodborne disease outbreaks has increased. Improvements in detection, investigation, and reporting of foodborne disease outbreaks help explain the increasing number of reported multistate outbreaks and the increasing percentage of outbreaks that were multistate. Knowing the etiologic agents and foods responsible for multistate outbreaks can help to identify sources of food contamination so that the safety of the food supply can be improved.

 Increase in multistate foodborne disease outbreaks—United States, 1973–2010

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, August 18, 2015, doi:10.1089/fpd.2014.1908

Nguyen Von D., Bennett Sarah D., Mungai Elisabeth, Gieraltowski Laura, Hise Kelley, and Gould L. Hannah

‘Vomiting, aching limbs hot flushes’ Gastro outbreak at Cardiff hotel

A hotel in Cardiff remains closed following an outbreak of gastroenteritis leaving 26 people feeling ill.

angel.hotel.cardiffThe Angel Hotel, in Castle Street, was closed this week following the outbreak.

Speaking to the BBCWales, teacher Kevin Waite from Gwaelod-y-Garth, Cardiff, fell ill at the hotel after attending a training event on Friday

He said: “I felt nauseous, I was having hot and cold flushes and my limbs were aching.

“I started vomiting on Sunday and this lasted through until Monday.

“The hotel looked plush, pleasant and clean. There was nothing to point to any problems.”

“I’m shocked and disappointed. But these bugs can happen for many reasons.”

California restaurant closes for noro clean up

Norovirus persistence is a problem for the food industry. The virus is hardy and can stick around on surfaces for six weeks or more. Once it’s there, the virus is tough to get out of a kitchen, dining room, restroom or storage area.

Oh, and with a low mean infectious dose, some difficult choices have to be made when there’s an outbreak. In 2014, Mohonk Mountain House in New York State closed for a week while a cleaning and sanitizing crew tried to get rid of the virus after hundreds of guests got sick over a 10-day period.10849902_719581291471357_3442145704847569295_n1-300x300-300x300

According to the Press Telegram, the Sky Room in Long Beach, California shut for three days for a noro clean up last week.

The Sky Room, a Long Beach restaurant known as one of the Southland’s more romantic spots, shut down this week following a report that 18 patrons and three employees fell ill earlier this month.

After a three-day closure in which the restaurant was sanitized top to bottom several times over, inspectors report, the Long Beach Bureau of Environmental Health gave the Sky Room the green light Tuesday to re-open. 

 The first reports of a problem came when six people who dined May 1 at two different tables reported falling ill, according to “epidemiological documentation” in a city inspection report.

On May 13, more patrons reported distress after eating at the Sky Room days before, the report says. The restaurant closed Friday, May 22 and re-opened Tuesday.

“Our reputation is everything,” said owner Bernard Rosenson, adding that not only did he hire a consultant to train the staff, but the consultant will return monthly to make sure best sanitation practices are continued.

UK Naval base hit with norovirus

There are a bunch of things in this story that grabbed my attention. As Stefon says, this one has everything: the Navy, vomit, diarrhea, isolation, quarantine, a ship and Raleigh.

According to BBC, approximately 70 Royal Navy personnel have been hit with norovirus (or winter vomiting sickness as the British call it) leading to intense cleaning and sanitation.

The Navy said people had started falling ill at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint about 10 days ago.

Those affected were placed in quarantine in an attempt to stem the spread of the contagious virus.

A Royal Navy spokesman said control measures included “intense cleaning and isolating those with symptoms”.

He added: “The virus started about 10 days ago. It peaked towards the end of last week at about 70 and numbers fell rapidly after that.”

HMS Raleigh provides training for the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Royal Navy Reserve.



Ohio high school prom linked to norovirus outbreak

In 1997, Dani and I went to prom (below, exactly as shown). The theme was a classic: ‘Under the Sea.’ The venue was filled with bubble decorations, fish and blue streamers.

But no norovirus.FullSizeRender

According to the Chillicothe Gazette, students attending the Zane Trace High School prom last weekend weren’t that lucky; 22 have symptoms consistent with norovirus.

According to Health District spokesman Rami Yoakum, calls began coming into the health district Monday from parents reporting sick children. Thus far, 22 illnesses are believed to be part of the same outbreak, 18 of whom are Zane Trace students.

Kathy Wakefield, director of Public Health Nursing at the health district, said officials believe a norovirus is the culprit.

The health district has been working with the school, advising officials to clean school surfaces, and has also sent letters home to parents describing symptoms and asking them to keep sick children at home and away from sporting events.

Specimens were collected and sent to the state lab in Reynoldsburg. If the results in each case come back all looking similar, the Health District will likely be able to trace back to the source of the contamination, Yoakum said. Presently, health officials feel they have a good idea where the illness may have originated, but don’t want to publicly speculate until until the results from the tests come back and they are sure.


Over 240 students in Taiwan ill with Norovirus

There’s a lot of Norovirus going around Taiwan resulting in hotel closures, waivers and according to the Want China Times, the latest group hit by the vomit-inducing pathogen are students on graduation trips.

About 140 students and teachers out of a 285-person group from New Taipei Municipal An Kang High School reported diarrhea and vomiting during their trip to southern Taiwan, according to the CDC.10849902_719581291471357_3442145704847569295_n1-300x300

The symptoms appeared after the group ate breakfast at their hotel in the scenic Kenting area on Thursday morning and again after eating dinner at another restaurant on Thursday night, the agency said.

The patients were sent to numerous hospitals and most of them have been discharged, the agency said.

Likewise, 100 students from Ming Hu Elementary School in Taipei have reported vomiting during their trip to Chiayi county since Thursday morning.

The CDC said it is investigating if any staff members of the hotels and restaurants the group visited have contracted the disease.

A real headline: Health Officials React To An Outbreak Of Stomach Yuck

I don’t know what Stomach Yuck is, but health department folks in Florida are reacting to it, according to WUWF radio.Wooden-Mannequin-Vomiting-300x198

An outbreak of a nasty stomach bug (Stomachus yuckii? – ben)  has health officials getting the word out about basic hygiene. Dr. John Lanza, the Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, recently issued a release about a spike in the number of gastrointestinal infections reported in Escambia County.

Lanza says thirty plus people have come down with the illness causing vomiting, diarrhea and fever.  They are all part of the same outbreak, which involved children and workers at day care centers in the county. While you might expect the chilly weather keeping people inside as the cause, Dr. Lanza says it’s not so much the time of year but an event or circumstance that exposes a lot of people to a bug at once that can cause an outbreak like this. He says the classic case is the spring wedding where a sick caterer can cause illness in more than half a wedding party within a few days.

Bird feeders can spread Salmonella

My grandparents were all about birds; they had Audubon field guides and binoculars in multiple spots in their house. Whenever I visited them in Campbellford, Ontario (that’s in Canada) I always helped fill up their bird feeder with seed.

Who knows how much Salmonella I was exposed to.

According to the Press Democrat, backyard bird feeders are a source of Salmonella for  and sharing the seed is probably leading to the demise of some song birds. The pathogen spreads from the bird-to-bird – or the seed

Andrienne Faulkner loves feeding birds.

The 69-year-old Montgomery Village area resident spends about $700 a year on birdseed for the various feeders in the yard.

So when she spotted two dead songbirds in her yard last week — a finch near a garbage can and a pine siskin on her patio — she first thought West Nile virus might be to blame.

She made some inquiries, and was surprised to learn that it wasn’t West Nile that was killing the birds — it was her.

Well, not exactly. The direct cause is likely a salmonella outbreak sweeping through several Bay Area counties.

But by providing birds a place to eat and congregate, Faulkner and other backyard birders may be unwittingly helping spread avian diseases, like the salmonella outbreak now spreading through finch populations in the region.

“I want to feed them, but I don’t want to kill them,” said Faulkner, who said she plans to remove her feeders and clean them as recommended.

The outbreak started about a month ago with a sharp increase in the number of people reporting dead or lethargic songbirds, said Veronica Bowers, founder and director of Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol, a rescue center focused on songbirds.

One of the birds taken to her center has since tested positive for salmonella, she said. State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have alerted her and other rescue centers of outbreaks in Sonoma, Sacramento, Alameda and other Bay Area counties, she said.

In a somewhat related story, a bunch of parrots at the San Diego Zoo have been vaccinated for Salmonella, according to San Diego 6.

About one-third of the small parrots that reside in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s aviary have been vaccinated to protect against salmonella, which killed some of the flock, zoo officials said today.

“We recently lost some birds to salmonella,” said Bruce Rideout, director of the Wildlife Disease Laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global. “Although unfortunate, we were able to use this loss to take biological samples necessary for isolating the bacteria. These samples became the basis for the vaccine.”

Twenty out of the flock of 60 birds received both an oral and injectable vaccine at the park’s hospital over the past couple of days. The rest will be vaccinated soon, zoo officials said.

Salmonella outbreak linked to TX steakhouse

Salmonella sucks. In complex full service restaurants there are lots of possibilities for contamination. Sometimes the source is improper cooking procedures. Sometimes illnesses are linked to asymptomatic food handlers. Often the actual source is never identified.

According to, 30 patrons of a Dalhart, TX restaurant, X-10 Woodfire Steakhouse have salmonellosis. That’s about all the info that’s out there.10868011_1537591776489189_8491316100590439212_n

The Texas Department of State Health Services tells KAMR Local 4 News the X-10 Woodfire Steakhouse in Dalhart has been connected to the salmonella cases.

Last week, that restaurant voluntarily closed.

Officials say since then, the restaurant was cleaned and sanitized and has been cleared for reopening.

Officials say they have not identified the original source inside the restaurant. 

All environmental and food samples tested negative for salmonella.