22 sick in Illinois: food poisoning suspected

The Jefferson County Health Department is investigating a possible outbreak of food poisoning which happened April 6.

Health Department Administrator Mark Stevens declined to give the location where the outbreak occurred. He said the department did not begin receiving reports of people becoming sick until April 9.

Becky Brooks, the director of nursing for the health department, said approximately 22 people are part of the department’s investigation, including the ones that presented no symptoms. Brooks confirmed there have been at least two hospitalizations as a result the incident — one person was still hospitalized Monday.

One of the victims said he and three other members of his group became sick following a Sunday brunch at the Holiday Inn and he is part of the investigation. All food at the hotel is prepared by Krieger’s Sports Grill, which is apparently being investigated.

Potential outbreak at Muskegon sports bar

Muskegon, MI birthplace of the Detroit Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader and punk rocker Iggy Pop is also home to what looks like a foodborne illness outbreak. According to Mlive, patrons of Bonicki’s Bistro reported illnesses to owner Norm Spyke as well as the local health authorities.395394_237923292949867_1801694089_n

Officials at Public Health – Muskegon County are asking recent patrons of a Muskegon Township sports bar to fill out a survey to gather data for a foodborne illness investigation.

Jill Montgomery Keast, the health education supervisor at Public Health – Muskegon County, said the agency is in the early stages of determining the type and cause of an outbreak that occurred at Bonicki’s Sports Bistro, 1891 East Apple Ave.
Keast said the department received at least six calls from local customers who fell ill between April 3 and April 6. 
“We were in full compliance as far as I know. They are looking into the matter,” Spyke said.

Bonicki’s achieved compliance with the Michigan Food Law on Jan. 8, according to the latest inspection data available online at www.swordsolutions.com. The records show that sanitarians cited the restaurant for priority violations related to ice and food storage that were eventually corrected.

On the Bonicki’s Sports Bistro Facebook page is a message from the ownership:

Contrary to some news organizations poor reporting skills
WE ARE STILL OPEN!
The Muskegon County Health Department has been here and has checked us on everything, they found nothing wrong with how we store, prepare, cook, or serve our food.
During this time please remember the people that work here, for many of them this is their only job, bad press effects everybody. 
#shoplocal #lovemuskegon

Getting sick from food sucks too.

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown identifies norovirus outbreak, takes steps to limit virus exposure

A few years ago fellow graduate student Brae Surgeoner had a fun idea to collect behavior data in the midst of an outbreak. The University of Guelph was dealing with a bunch of illnesses that seemed to be linked to residence halls and the symptoms looked like norovirus. The local health folks worked with the universities housing group and placed alcohol-based sanitizer at the entrance to one of the cafeterias (which was thought to be ground zero). Looking back, the hand sanitizer step wasn’t the greatest public health intervention (not with commercially available products), but what we wanted to know was whether students heeded the warnings and advice. student-cafeteria-02

By using ethnography, we found that only 17 per cent of the observed students followed the hand hygiene recommendations, but self-reported surveys of the same population showed that 83 per cent of students said that they had been following the guidance (we published the results in the Journal of Environmental Health, abstract below).

Health officials often put up posters and signs and rely on self-reporting to determine whether interventions are effective. People may say they are washing their hands more, but our study showed that the behavior and reports don’t always match up.

Faced with a bunch of students ill with norovirus, the decision-makers running the show at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, according to Global Dispatch, made a good disease management call by canceling all events and closing the cafeteria to limit virus transfer.

Several University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown students have reported an illness–with the symptoms of  fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and general abdominal discomfort, to campus Health Services during the past 48 hours prompting the university to cancel all in-door social events for the weekend. In addition, the decision has been made to suspend cafeteria services at all dining facilities on campus. Instead, prepackaged meals will be available in the Student Union for pick-up.

In an effort to respond to students who feel that they need medical attention, the Office of Health and Counseling will be open on both Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

University Students’ Hand Hygiene Practice During a Gastrointestinal Outbreak in Residence: What They Say They DO and What They Actually Do

Journal of Environmental Health, 72(2):24-28

Brae V. Surgeoner, M.S., Benjamin J. Chapman, Ph.D., Douglas A. Powell, Ph.D.

Abstract

Published research on outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness has focused primarily on the results of epidemiological and clinical data collected postoutbreak; little research has been done on actual preventative practices during an outbreak. In this study, the authors observed student compliance with hand hygiene recommendations at the height of a suspected norovirus outbreak in a university residence in Ontario, Canada. Data on observed practices was compared to postoutbreak self-report surveys administered to students to examine their beliefs and perceptions about hand hygiene. Observed compliance with prescribed hand hygiene recommendations occurred 17.4% of the time. Despite knowledge of hand hygiene protocols and low compliance, 83.0% of students indicated that they practiced correct hand hygiene during the outbreak. To proactively prepare for future outbreaks, a current and thorough crisis communications and management strategy, targeted at a university student audience and supplemented with proper hand washing tools, should be enacted by residence administration.

125 ill with norovirus at Oregon V.A. hospital

Retirement homes and hospitals have a lot of trouble with norovirus. If an ill resident, patient or staff member sheds the virus through vomit or poop in a public area a lot of folks can get sick.

According to KDRV ABC Channel 12, The V.A. hospital in White City Oregon is dealing with its own norovirus outbreak with over 125 veterans and 25 staff ill.vomit

“This is very contact oriented, it’s not airborne, it’s by touch,” said V.A. Infection Preventionist Sue Thurston.

Thurston said about 470 vets live at the V.A, and more than a quarter of them are sick.
Veterans are being asked to not leave their rooms until they feel better and bag meals are dropped off at their rooms.

“We’re wiping down everything you can touch –  all the side rails, all the doorknobs, all the vending  machines, all the rooms, all the surfaces, every single flat surface is being wiped down and disinfected,” said Thurston (I wonder what sanitizer they are using and wiping may just be spreading virus particles around -ben).

Although the virus isn’t respiratory, epidemiological investigations of past outbreaks suggest that virus particles can be aerosolized through vomit events. At IAFP 2013, North Carolina State University graduate student Grace Tung showed a simulated vomit event would yield a spread of droplets 8-12 ft.; the greatest distance traveled in any one experiment was 14.5 ft.

2013 Colchester Oyster Feast source of outbreak

The Colchester Oyster Feast is kind of a big deal. Dating back to the 14th century and boasting a couple of to-be-kings as former guests (King Edward VIII and King George VI) it is the place to be in October. The event even has its own Wikipedia page.

And in 2013, it also was the source of an outbreak.1891cs

According to the Essex County Standard, 54 attendees became ill after eating Irish oysters at the annual festival.

A total of 200 guests attended the civic event at Colchester’s Moot Hall last October.
Within days, 13 guests reported they were unwell and an investigation was launched by Public Health England.

Questionnaires were sent out and 54 people reported they had been sick, including Colchester Council chief executive Adrian Pritchard.

Full disclosure: Toronto Public Health creates institutional outbreak website

Public health folks seem to wrestle with when to make investigation information public: they want to have enough data to be confident before fingering any specific foods or locales. Releasing incorrect or incomplete information, like the Florida tomato industry often points out, can affect business. Sitting on info can further put individuals at risk.
Schaffner often credits epidemiologist Paul Mead with summarizing the problem “If you’re wrong, you went public too early; if you’re right, you went [public] too late.”torontopublichealthexhibitorlogo

Having a consistent policy on what gets released when is lacking in the public health world – and Toronto Public Health (TPH), in an effort to increase openness and transparency, is pulling back the curtain on outbreak investigations. According to the Toronto Star’s Robert Cribb, TPH has begun listing all current confirmed and investigated healthcare-linked outbreaks on their website, and will update the list weekly.

For the first time, all outbreaks in Toronto nursing homes, retirement homes and hospitals will be publicly posted on a city website — a new public health disclosure system prompted by a Toronto Star-Ryerson University investigation.
Each Thursday, Toronto Public Health will now detail outbreaks by nature, institution name and address, as well as indicate whether it is still active. The reports will include both gastroenteric outbreaks (such as those causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever) and respiratory infections (which result in symptoms such as coughing, runny noses, sore throats, fevers).
The current report, covering the week of Feb. 13-19, lists 15 outbreaks — 10 in long-term care homes, three in retirement homes and two in hospitals. Ten were still active at time of reporting.

“(The new disclosure system) is a good idea,” said Doug Powell, a Canadian food safety expert. “They’re already collecting this information, so making it public isn’t that much more work. They work for the public and they’re there to serve public health. And from a personal point of view, I’d want to know if one of my relatives were in one of those institutions. It brings a level of public accountability.” 

Data analysis allows researchers to predict disease outbreaks

Researchers tracking social media and Web searches have, according to USA Today, detected outbreaks of the flu and rare diseases in Latin America by up to two weeks before they were reported by local news media or government health agencies.

Working at a series of universities and companies around the country, the researchers are part of a program led by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) that is aimed at anticipating critical social.media.likesocietal events, such as disease outbreaks, violent uprisings or economic crises before they appear in the news.

“The goal is to use publicly available information to predict events, such as political violence, disease outbreaks and economic crises,” said Jason Matheny, program manager of IARPA’s Open Source Indicators program. “We’re using leading indicators like social media, Web search trends, Wikipedia in order to identify the events. We’re looking at flu outbreaks or other signs of unrest in a population.”

IARPA’s goal, Matheny said, is to inform U.S. policymakers about major events early enough to make more of a difference. Too often, he said, public announcements of disease outbreaks come too late. Intelligence analysts with access to a system able to eliminate the clutter that’s common in open source data may be able to get a jump on disease outbreaks or other problems.

IARPA is the intelligence community’s version of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which performs much of the military’s research into technology to make better weapons or improve medical treatments. 

NY resort closed due to norovirus outbreak; ill patrons share stories using #MoChunk hashtag

Upstate New York in February is not something that makes me think resort vacation. But what do I know. Mohonk Mountain House, a popular getaway spot in the Catskills, is also the site of a big norovirus outbreak. According to NPR, hundreds of visitors and staff have become ill in the past 10 days.

[The resort]  closed Friday afternoon so that cleaning crews from a company that specializes in disaster responses can scour the place after an outbreak of intestinal illness. The cleanup is expected to take a week. Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 10.36.36 PM

Kyle Bonner, a 21-year-old graduate student at Monmouth University, and his partner were among the guests who got sick. They stayed at the resort last weekend, checking out Sunday morning. “I’m still not feeling well. I was sick all day Monday and Tuesday,” he tells Shots. His partner was treated for dehydration at a hospital ER in New Jersey after they got home.

“What bothers me the most is that there was a large conference a few days before we arrived and many of the participants contracted the same virus,” Bonner in a review on the website TripAdvisor.

Bonner [says] that he didn’t need to go to Mohonk last weekend. The resort should have told him and other guests that there was a “fast-moving virus” on the premises so they could have changed their plans.

Quite a few attendees of a meeting of at the resort late last week got sick. Many made the best of it with on Twitter. You can read their accounts by searching for the evocative hashtag #MoChunk.

A message to the resort’s staff was reprinted in the Times Herald-Record and included the below explination for closing:

Over the course of the last few days, it has become increasingly clear to us that the virus that has caused illness among staff and guests is very persistent.

Working with the Ulster County and New York State Departments of Health, we have already implemented many recommended measures to address this issue and have determined that further action needs to be taken.

After careful consideration of our options, we have decided that the best course of action is to close for a week and hire a contractor that specializes in this type of work to sanitize the property.

Mohonk Mountain House is taking a unique step to close for a week to clean and sanitize the site; actions like that are often only seen on cruise ships. An unstated benefit of closing for a week is that any staff who are ill should have time to recover from their symptoms and get past the high-shedding stage – without the temptation to show up to work sick.

Norovirus causes Canadian curlers to toss cookies as well as rocks

I took up curling for a year in my twenties as a social activity. Once a week I’d drive out to the club north of Guelph (that’s in Canada) and try not to fall as I slid 40lbs of granite down the ice while someone swept in front of it.

Well portrayed in the underrated Men With Brooms, curling remains the only athletic activity I’ve consumed beer while playing.brooms

It’s also the only sport I still have a shot at playing in the Olympics in (based on age).

When it is on television I’m strangely drawn to the yelling and shuffleboard like non-action. The Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Canada’s annual national women’s championships is currently taking place in Montreal and according to CBC, a norovirus outbreak is affecting teams and tournament officials.

The illness kept six players out of the morning draw, when Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton (4-1) downed Quebec (1-6) 8-4 with only three players on her team.

Kesa Van Van Osch was the lone player missing in the afternoon, but then her lead Carley Sandwith had to quit after two ends, leaving them with only three.

Quebec was missing second Brittany O’Rourke in the morning. They got her back for the afternoon session, only to see her leave again after eight ends.

“She threw up in the third and the sixth ends, and finally got off the ice,” Allison Ross said of her teammate. “We’re in contamination mode.”

Lettuce likely cause of Arizona restaurant E. coli outbreak; same in Calif.

Lettuce was the likely cause of an E. coli outbreak that sickened 94 people eating at a southwest Valley Federico’s Mexican Food restaurant, according to a report released by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

The outbreak occurred between July18 and 31 at the Federico’s, 13132 W. Camelback Road near Litchfield Park.

According to the report, the specific source of the bacterial exposure is uncertain, but lettuce-skulllettuce is the most likely culprit.

“The lettuce could have been contaminated in the field from manure, or (from) contaminated irrigation water, during processing, transport, handling, or through improper storage,” the report states. “Improper lettuce washing and preparation at the restaurant may have contributed to the spread of disease. The restaurant corrected these processes and complied with all other recommendations and no new cases were identified, effectively ending the outbreak.”

In California, the investigation into the cluster of E. coli cases that sickened five Humboldt County residents — including county Supervisor Estelle Fennell — has been suspended, said public health director Susan Buckley of the county Department of Health and Human Services.

”We don’t have enough cases to identify a source,” Buckley said. “They occurred over a three-month period, and showed up sporadically since August.”

What made this cluster of cases unusual was that this particular strain of E. coli — known as O157:H7 — has not been reported anywhere else in California.

After interviewing the infected Humboldt residents, Buckley said that each individual ate leafy green lettuce before feeling symptoms.