200 sick: Lake in Washington suspected for Norovirus outbreak

A mysterious intestinal ailment that struck down about 200 people who swam in a Washington lake has pushed officials to shut down access to the lake.

Horseshoe_Lake_Exley_Falls_t470The swimmers who enjoyed a summer weekend at Horseshoe Lake have been reporting symptoms of nausea, cramps and diarrhea, officials said.

The officials suspect a norovirus may be the culprit but are awaiting test results.

In the meantime the popular Horseshoe Lake County Park swimming site has been closed to vacationers until further notice, they say, and warning signs have been posted on the lake shoreline.

“Although there is no laboratory confirmation of a specific virus or bacteria responsible for the illnesses at this time, Public Health and Kitsap County are issuing the temporary closure as a precautionary measure while they investigate and to protect the public and prevent any additional illnesses,” the county public health district said [pdf] in a statement.

The county park is apparently the only area on the lake affected so far, officials said.

100 sick: Norovirus outbreak linked to Eagle Island in Idaho

Patient samples from a recent outbreak of illness at Eagle Island State Park have tested positive for norovirus, the Central District Health Department said in a news release Wednesday afternoon.

Eagle Island State ParkMore than 100 cases of vomiting and diarrhea were reported to CDHD this Monday and Tuesday, prompting the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to close the swimming area at Eagle Island. Park staff is working with CDHD and DEQ to lower lake levels and thoroughly disinfect impacted facilities.

The swimming areas at Eagle Island will remain closed for two weeks to allow for drainage and refill of the lake. All other areas at the park will remain open for recreational use.

Norovirus is the most common cause of sudden-onset vomiting and diarrhea, CDHD reports.

Does E. coli persist in strawberry fields (not forever)

Irrigation water quality is one of those nagging issues for on-farm food safety and fresh produce: it’s difficult to model how persistent E. coli is and just how much of a threat is present. Or as my farmer friends say, if I’m going to lose the crop, I’m going to irrigate.

beatles-strawberry-fields-foreverA two-year field experiment was conducted in order to evaluate the persistence of generic Escherichia coli in strawberry after irrigation with naturally E. coli-contaminated surface water. Sixteen experimental plots representing actual field conditions were set, including two methods of irrigation (overhead and subsurface drip) and two mulch types (straw and plastic). Two irrigations were performed each year with water having an E. coli content varying between 460 and 2242 CFU per 100 ml. Strawberries were harvested before irrigation and 1, 4 and 24 h following irrigation. E. coli counts could not be determined in any of the 256 strawberry samples. Enrichment procedure revealed more positive samples under straw mulch (6.4%) compared to plastic mulch (4.3%), but this difference was not statistically significant (P = 0.3991). Higher strawberry contamination was also observed in overhead irrigation treatments (8.6%) compared to drip irrigation (2.1%) (P = 0.0674). The risk to detect E. coli in overhead-irrigated strawberries was 4.5-fold higher than in strawberries under drip irrigation. Four hours following irrigation, the risk to detect E. coli in fruits was 4.0-fold lower than the risk observed 1 h after irrigation. Increasing the delay to 24 h led to a 7.4-fold lower risk. In actual conditions that may be encountered in strawberry productions, this study showed a limited persistence of E. coli in strawberries following irrigation.

Persistence of Escherichia coli following irrigation of strawberry grown under four production systems: Field experiment


Mylene Genereux, Michele Grenier, Caroline Cote

Food Control, Volume 47, January 2015, Pages 103–107, DOI: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2014.06.037


Hundreds of faulty septic systems identified in Wainfleet

I once owned a cottage in Wainfleet, Ontario (that’s in Canada).

I had helped set up the alternative University of Guelph student newspaper, The Peak, and then went off to be the editor of the Port Colborne News in 1988.

madelynn.1988I owned the place for two months but made enough in flipping to cover real estate fees and broke even.

All I really remember about Wainfleet was one night on Lake Erie, with some friends and fungal hallucinogens, and, separately, this fab pic of my eldest, Madelynn, who is now 27 and has her own kid.

Unfortunately, those same houses where I once lived have been under a boil water advisory since 2006, after studies found widespread contamination of private wells with E. coli bacteria, coliform bacteria and nitrates.

The first thing I did when I bought the cottage back in 1989 was install a chlorine drip for the well water.

The Region spent millions of dollars on plans to hook up Wainfleet to water and sewer plants it operates under the so-called ‘big pipe’ plan. Wainfleet is the only local Niagara municipality that the Region doesn’t supply drinking water to.

But the Township of Wainfleet repealed its support for the big pipe plan in 2011, opting instead to embark on a what township mayor April Jeffs told regional council is a “find, repair and replace” plan to fix or replace faulty septic systems.

The province handed responsibility for overseeing smaller, private septic systems to local towns and cities in 1997. Wainfleet is one of three local municipalities in Niagara that haven’t contracted the Region to take care of that for them.

Visual, non-invasive inspections by a consultant hired by the township have found 203 of 1,126 private septic systems needing work or replacement, said Jeffs. About 45 property owners have already come forward for permits to do that work, she said.

Previous research by the Region has shown leaking septic systems can contribute to large ‘plumes’ of sewage going from property to property underground.

St. Catharines Coun. Tim Rigby said leaking septic systems could be leaching E. coli into Lake Erie, eventually reaching beaches and wells in north Niagara.

St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan called it disturbing to think of failing septic systems underground leaking dangerous contaminants.

 “That’s very disturbing to know that daily…hundreds of septic systems are leaching every minute and every hour into the aquifer and possibly into Lake Erie,” he said. 

Child dies from digestive infection at French camp

An 8-year-old child died at a camp in Ariège from “acute intestinal infection,” probably due to the ingestion of non-potable water.

Ariège .campThe center has closed until further notice, pending the results of analyzes of food served at holiday center and its water. The story notes camp water was contaminated since early July by coliform bacteria and leaders of the colony were instructed to drink only bottled water.

Three other children, who had been hospitalized for similar but less severe symptoms, were discharged from the hospital Thursday and joined the colony.

One hundred and forty children were staying in the cottage at the time of the tragedy, from four different groups – Villeneuve-le-Roi, Paris, Aubergenville (Yvelines) and La Ciotat (Bouches-du-Rhône). A group of children of employees of Airbus in Toulouse, staying in a nearby cottage, had no problems.

Portland boil water alert lifted: Here’s what to do

The Oregon Health Authority has lifted Portland’s boil water alert that was issued on Friday.

But, as Lynne Terry of The Oregonian writes, before using tap water, running-tap-wateror using ice from a machine, here’s what residents need to do:

  • Flush pipes and faucets by running cold water faucets continuously for at least two minutes or until water runs cold.
  • Flush water coolers by running those with direct water connections for five minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Flush home automatic ice makers by making three batches of ice cubes. Discard all three batches.
  • Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.
  • Drain and refill hot water heaters set below 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Change all point-of-entry and point-of-use water filters, including those associated with equipment that uses water.

670K under boil water advisory after E. coli detected in Portland, Oregon, water

A citywide boil notice was issued for Portland, Oregon, after state health officials detected E. coli in the water supply.

The Portland Water Bureau said Friday that residents should boil all tap water used for drinking, food preparation, tooth brushing and ice for at least one minute. Ice or any beverages prepared with un-boiled tap water on or after Tuesday should be dumped.

boil.waterThe notice, which also covers some suburban cities, affects about 670,000 people. It will remain in effect until tests show the water system is clean.

The samples that tested positive for bacteria were collected this week from two uncovered reservoirs at Mount Tabor. The Water Bureau said it collects about 240 bacterial samples per month throughout the system, and the test to determine the presence of bacteria takes 18 hours.

Portland to flush 38M gallon reservoir after teen uses it as a toilet

Portland will dispose of 38 million gallons of treated reservoir water after learning that a 19-year-old man urinated into it, even though urine-tainted drinking water is apparently not much of a health risk. 

ReservoirdogWater Bureau Administrator David Shaff said that animals urinate into the reservoir often and that there’s no real problem with that, but this is different because it (naturally) makes everyone feel super weird — or, as he put it, ”I could be wrong on that, but the reality is our customers don’t anticipate drinking water that’s been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir.”

The perp was seen peeing through an iron fence into Mount Tabor Reservoir No. 5 around 1 a.m. by security cameras and has been cited for public urination. He was accompanied by two others, ages 18 and 19, who tried (only one succeeded) to scale the fence surrounding the reservoir. All three have been given citations for trespassing. 

In describing the footage, Shaff said that there’s “really no doubt” what he’s doing. “When you see the video, he’s leaning right up because he has to get his little wee wee right up to the iron bars.”

Barreled water or bottled water? Over 400 cases of noro linked to Chinese schools

According to CRI English, there’s a whole lot of noro going through Chinese schools. Over 400 students attending schools in Haning City and Haiyan County have come down ill with the gastrointestinal virus and investigators believe it is linked to water. A few weeks ago Japan dealt with its own massive school-linked norovirus outbreak that was eventually traced to bread.

Classes will be suspended on Thursday and Friday but are expected to resume on Monday.woode0barrel

The outbreak began on Feb. 11 in Haining and Feb. 13 in Haiyan.
It is suspected that the outbreak was caused by barrelled water. All the affected schools have been using barrelled water with the same brand, said Yang Jing, head of the provincial health and family planning commission.

A further epidemiological investigation is under way, said Yang.

Governments have ordered all the schools to disinfect canteens, classrooms, dormitories and toilets.

Water? We don’t need no stinkin’ water, we’ve got gloves; Subway in Maryland

Russ Ptacek of WUSA CBS Channel 9 reports that armed guards at Beltway Plaza Mall prevented our camera crew from recording video of restaurants cited and closed for operating without running water, but a producer managed to take iPhone photos before STINKINGBADGES-1ebeing escorted out.

In Greenbelt, citing operating without running water during a water main break, health inspectors temporarily closed: Subway, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; Three Brothers, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; Kalpena Dip-N-Depot, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; and Heaven Bakery, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road.

All the restaurants passed re-inspection and are back in business.

At the Beltway Plaza Mall Subway, a manager told us he didn’t believe operating during the water outage was a problem because workers wear gloves.

Health experts say contaminated hands can contaminate clean gloves and workers should wash hands every time they change tasks, especially after using the restroom.