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Smithsonian’s National Petting Zoo Closed Due to E. coli

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has temporarily closed the Kids’ Farm exhibit because E. coli stx 1 gene bacteria was discovered in a few of the animals. The animals are now being managed under quarantine protocols. At this time, no staff have been affected and no animals are showing any signs of disease. While E. coli exists all around us, and even in us, some types of E. coli are “pathogenic,” meaning they can cause illness.

Zoo veterinarians detected the original presence of the E. coli stx 1 gene bacteria in the goats through a routine fecal screening process Feb. 18. The goats were moved into the barn and managed separately from the other animals and visitors. Individual fecal cultures were performed Feb. 22. Last Friday, Feb. 26, results revealed that four goats and one cow were positive. Based on these results, the Kids’ Farm was immediately quarantined and staff started appropriate protective measures, including treating all the farm animals with antibiotics. The animal care team is consulting with experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the D.C. Department of Health.

All public contact animals–goats, cows, alpacas and donkeys–were negative for E. coli stx 1 at the last routine testing in December 2015. The bacteria is passed fecal-orally, and it could have been transferred to the goats and cow from a wild animal, from humans or through a food source. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea in humans can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with infected animals or persons.

“As most people know, E. coli is everywhere in our environment,” said Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care sciences. “Because it is so common, we routinely test our animals. It’s unfortunate that we have to close the Kids’ Farm temporarily, but we’re taking the right preventative measures for our guests, staff and the animals.”

The team will monitor all the animals extremely closely, continue weekly fecal testing and provide the usual high-quality care during this quarantine period. When Zoo veterinarians receive three consecutive weeks of negative test results, the team will start the planning for lifting the quarantine and reopening the Kids’ Farm.

Sandy Cinema Link in Hepatitis A Worry

logoClackamas County Public Health officials are investigating an incident of potential exposure to Hepatitis A at a Sandy movie theater.

People who attended the Sandy Cinema, at 16605 Champion Way in Sandy, and ate or drank from the concession stand during certain days and hours earlier this month may have been exposed.

The specific days and hours in question are:

  • Feb. 12: 11 a.m. to closing
  • Feb. 13: 6 p.m. to closing
  • Feb. 14: 2 p.m. to closing
  • Feb. 15: 1:30 p.m. to closing

Clackamas County Public Health is advising people who may have been exposed to check their immunization status, and if they have not been immunized against Hepatitis A, to obtain medication that can decrease their chances of becoming ill. These are effective for up to two weeks after exposure.

The medication should not be given if more than two weeks have passed.

  • Those individuals aged 1 to 40, who have not previously received the Hepatitis A vaccine, are recommended to get a single dose of the vaccine. Twinrix (which is a combination Hepatitis A and B vaccine) is not appropriate for this purpose.
  • For those individuals less than 12 months old or over 40, vaccine is not approved. They are recommended to receive immune globulin shots.

Clackamas County Public Health also has established a call-in line to provide information. The call-in number is 503-742-5320. The call center will be active through 7 p.m. tonight and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Clackamas County is updating inventories in the region to assure there is adequate supply. For questions about where to find vaccine please contact the call center.

Medications will also be made available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 23 through Feb. 25 at Legacy Medical Group Firwood, 36860 Industrial Way, Sandy, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The Hepatitis A case was first reported to Clackamas County Public Health late on February 17.

Public Health officials said theater owners have been fully cooperative and stressed that the risk to the public is extremely low and there is no continued risk to the public.

“This recommendation for treatment doesn’t apply to people who ate at Sandy Cinema on other days,” said Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas County Public Health Officer. ”We know the likelihood of infection is low but we are recommending vaccinations for exposed persons because the risk is not zero and there are effective medications that can further decrease the risk of illness.”

Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver that is contagious. It is spread from person to person, often by inadequate handwashing after using the toilet or changing diapers, or eating food prepared by an infected person.

Typical symptoms include fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes). Some infections may be mild but it can develop into severe liver disease. Symptoms usually develop 3-4 weeks after exposure but it may be up to 50 days.

For more information, go to the Clackamas County Public Health Division web page at: www.clackamas.us/publichealth/

Johnny Ray’s Implicated in Salmonella Outbreak

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 5.38.48 PMThe Alabama Department of Public Health is investigating a foodborne outbreak in Pelham, Ala.

Four individuals who had eaten at Johnny Ray’s in Pelham, Alabama (309 Huntley Parkway) tested positive for Salmonella. Two have matching patterns of a rare Salmonella Enteritidis.  Other potential cases of Salmonella are being investigated. As of January 8, 2016, the restaurant was closed by emergency order, following visits by the Bureau of Environmental Services on December 15 and 22, and January 6.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramping, and fever and usually occur within 6 and 72 hours after ingestion.  Most people recover without treatment.

Dr. Mary G. McIntyre, State Epidemiologist, recommends that people reduce their risk of Salmonella by avoiding raw or undercooked eggs, poultry or other meats, thoroughly washing produce, and following safe food handling practices during food preparation. Hand washing, keeping uncooked food away from cooked food, and using clean plates and utensils are some important ways to minimize food contamination.  People should also wash their hands after contact with animals and animal feces.

The investigation is ongoing and final test results will be available at a later date.

Hundreds, Thousands, Get Hepatitis A Vaccines After McDonalds Exposure

5647ba128ed92.imageMike Hibbard of the Finger Lakes Times reports that if there was any question about how seriously people are taking a confirmed case of hepatitis A in a McDonald’s worker, it was answered by a drive to Mynderse Academy on Saturday afternoon.

Parking lots at the school were full and a long line snaked out of a school entrance as hundreds — if not thousands — of people flocked to the school for a vaccine clinic. That came after the Seneca County Public Health Department confirmed the case Thursday.

“If they have a concern, they will get immunized,” said Vickie Swinehart, the county’s director of public health. “Luckily, we’ve never had something like this happen in the 23 years I’ve been here.”

Officials from both the county and state Department of Health are stressing there is a low risk of contracting illness. However, people who have not been previously vaccinated for hepatitis A and who consumed food/drink from the McDonald’s on Mound Road on certain dates should consider treatment.

Those dates are Oct. 31, Nov. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8. Saturday’s clinic ran from 1 to 8 p.m, and anyone who ate at the McDonald’s on Oct. 31 should have attended that clinic as the vaccine must be given within two weeks of possible infection.

McDonalds Hepatitis A: Scare in Waterloo, New York

Vaccine_406x250Why vaccinating employees is good business.

Here we go again – another Hepatitis A infected worker and another Hepatitis A scare that will likely force thousands to stand in line for a Hepatitis A vaccine to hopefully prevent illness.

The Seneca County Health Department has confirmed a case of Hepatitis A in a food service worker employed at the McDonalds located at 2500 Mound Rd. Waterloo, NY. Public health officials are stressing there is a low risk of contracting illness, however, individuals who have not been previously vaccinated for Hepatitis A and who consumed food/drink from McDonalds on the following dates should consider treatment.

Hardly a month passes without a warning from a health department somewhere that an infected food handler is the source of yet another potential hepatitis A outbreak. Absent vaccinations of food handlers, combined with an effective and rigorous hand-washing policy, there will continue to be more hepatitis A outbreaks. It is time for health departments across the country to require vaccinations of food-service workers, especially those who serve the very young and the elderly.

Hepatitis A is a communicable disease that spreads from person-to-person. It is spread almost exclusively through fecal-oral contact, generally from person-to-person, or via contaminated food or water. Hepatitis A is the only foodborne illness that is vaccine-preventable. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since the inception of the vaccine, rates of infection have declined 92 percent.

CDC estimate that 83,000 cases of hepatitis A occur in the United States every year, and that many of these cases are related to food-borne transmission. In 1999, more than 10,000 people were hospitalized due to hepatitis A infections, and 83 people died. In 2003, 650 people became sickened, four died, and nearly 10,000 people got IG (immunoglobulin) shots after eating at a Pennsylvania restaurant. Not only do customers get sick, but also businesses lose customers or some simply go out of business.

Although CDC has not yet called for mandatory vaccination of food-service workers, it has repeatedly pointed out that the consumption of worker-contaminated food is a major cause of foodborne illness in the U.S.

Hepatitis A continues to be one of the most frequently reported, vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S., despite FDA approval of hepatitis A vaccine in 1995. Widespread vaccination of appropriate susceptible populations would substantially lower disease incidence and potentially eliminate indigenous transmission of hepatitis A infections. Vaccinations cost about $50. The major economic reason that these preventive shots have not been used is because of the high turnover rate of food-service employees. Eating out becomes a whole lot less of a gamble if all food-service workers faced the same requirement.

According to CDC, the costs associated with hepatitis A are substantial. Between 11 percent and 22 percent of persons who have hepatitis A are hospitalized. Adults who become ill lose an average of 27 days of work. Health departments incur substantial costs in providing post-exposure prophylaxis to an average of 11 contacts per case. Average costs (direct and indirect) of hepatitis A range from $1,817 to $2,459 per case for adults and from $433 to $1,492 per case for children younger than 18. In 1989, the estimated annual direct and indirect costs of hepatitis A in the U.S. were more than $200 million, equivalent to more than $300 million in 1997 dollars.  A new CDC report shows that, in 2010, slightly more than 10 percent of people between the ages of 19 and 49 got a hepatitis A shot.

Vaccinating an employee make sense.  It is moral to protect customers from an illness that can cause serious illness and death. Vaccines also protect the business from the multi-million-dollar fallout that can come if people become ill or if thousands are forced to stand in line to be vaccinated to prevent a more serious problem.

US Attorneys Speak Out on Salmonella Sentencing

Two former officials of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) were sentenced to prison today in Albany, Georgia, for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud their customers by shipping salmonella-positive peanut products before the results of microbiological testing were received and falsifying microbiological test results, the Department of Justice announced today. Last week, PCA’s former president received 28 years in prison, the largest criminal sentence ever given in a food safety case.

Samuel Lightsey, 50, of Blakely, Georgia, a former operations manager at PCA’s Blakely plant, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands of the Middle District of Georgia to serve 36 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Daniel Kilgore, 46, also of Blakely, and a former operations manager at PCA’s Blakely plant, was sentenced to serve 72 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Both Lightsey and Kilgore pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and the sale of misbranded and adulterated food. Additionally, both Lightsey and Kilgore served as witnesses in the 2014 trial of Stewart Parnell, 61, of Lynchburg, Virginia, the former owner and president of PCA; Michael Parnell, 56, of Midlothian, Virginia, Stewart Parnell’s brother, who worked at P.P. Sales and was a food broker who worked on behalf of PCA; and Mary Wilkerson, 41, of Edison, Georgia, who held various positions at PCA’s Blakely plant, including receptionist, office manager and quality assurance manager. Lightsey was on the witness stand during nine trial days and Kilgore testified as a witness during five trial days.

The trial, which led to the convictions of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson, established that tainted food led to a salmonella outbreak in 2009 with more than 700 reported cases of salmonella poisoning in 46 states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on epidemiological projections, that number translates to more than 22,000 total cases, including nine deaths. During the sentencing phase of the case, the court found that the evidence presented at trial linked PCA’s contaminated peanut products to the victims’ illnesses.

“Today’s sentences are a just result,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “They reflect the roles that the defendants played in these terrible acts, their acceptance of responsibility for those roles, and their willingness to assist the government, albeit after the fact, in ensuring that all of those who engaged in criminal activity were held accountable. The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively with its partners to ensure that the American people are protected from food that is adulterated or misbranded.”

The government presented evidence at trial to establish that Stewart Parnell and Michael Parnell, with Lightsey and Kilgore, participated in several schemes by which they defrauded PCA customers and jeopardized the quality and purity of their peanut products. Specifically, the government presented evidence that the defendants misled customers about the presence of salmonella in their products. For example, the Parnells, Lightsey and Kilgore fabricated certificates of analysis (COAs) that accompanied various shipments of peanut products. COAs are documents that summarize laboratory results, including test results concerning the presence or absence of pathogens in food. According to the evidence, on several occasions, the Parnells, Lightsey and Kilgore participated in a scheme to fabricate COAs that stated that the food at issue was free of pathogens when in fact there had been no testing of the food or tests had revealed the presence of pathogens.

The government also presented evidence that demonstrated that when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials visited PCA’s Blakely plant to investigate the outbreak, Stewart Parnell, Lightsey and Wilkerson gave untrue or misleading answers to questions posed by those officials.

“By making sure that the individuals involved in the corporate fraud at PCA were held accountable, I am confident that the message to other executives is clear,” said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore of the Middle District of Georgia. “Because we all know that it is people who make decisions about what goes on behind the corporate curtain, we’ll be looking to hold those individuals personally accountable when they steer their businesses down the path of fraud. Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Lightsey acknowledged their wrongdoing, and today their sentences reflect not only their acceptance of that responsibility, but also the requirement of accountability.”

On Sept. 21, Judge Sands sentenced Stewart Parnell to serve 336 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, Michael Parnell to serve 240 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and Mary Wilkerson to serve 60 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Patrick Hearn and Mary M. Englehart of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Dasher of the Middle District of Georgia. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer and U.S. Attorney Moore thank the investigative efforts of the FBI and the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella Outbreak – By the Numbers

Between 2008-2009 at least 714 were sickened by Salmonella and nine died.

The criminal prosecution is now over and here are those numbers.

  • Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corp. of America – 28 Years in prison
  • Michael Parnell, who is Stewart Parnell’s brother and a former supervisor – 20 Years in prison
  • Samuel Lightsey, a onetime plant operator – 3 Years in prison
  • Mary Wilkerson, a former quality-assurance manager – 5 Years in prison
  • Daniel Kilgore, plant manager – 6 Years in prison

Hardee’s Should Reimburse Spartanburg and Greenville Counties for Hepatitis A Vaccines

2g91hmty1The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control today announced it has provided 4,965 vaccinations through its hepatitis A vaccine clinics in Spartanburg and Greenville. Vaccinations have been offered to individuals who might have been exposed to hepatitis A at two Hardee’s restaurants located in Spartanburg County. The restaurants are located at 12209 Greenville Highway in Lyman and 1397 E. Main St. in Duncan. Customers and staff who, as of today,worked or ate at the Lyman – area restaurant Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, 2015, should receive post – exposure treatment for hepatitis A. Since the treatment is effective only if given within 14 days of exposure, Sept. 29 will be the final day that DHEC will offer the vaccine. After Sept. 29, customers and staff should monitor for symptoms. Customers and staff who ate at the restaurants between Aug. 31 and Sept.13 are not likely to benefit from post – exposure treatment. Anyone who ate at these Hardee’s restaurants between these dates should watch for symptoms of infection, such as nausea, vomiting, and jaundice, which is yellowing of the eyes and skin, that occur from 15 to 50 days after exposure to hepatitis A. Seek medical care if symptoms develop.

Hepatitis A: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food. The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Subway, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr.

If you or a family member became ill with a Hepatitis A infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Hepatitis A attorneys for a free case evaluation.

More than 3,700 Hardee’s Customers vaccinated against hepatitis A in South Carolina – Marler Clark Retained

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) today announced it has provided 3,706 vaccinations through its hepatitis A vaccine clinics in Spartanburg and Greenville. Vaccinations are being offered to individuals who might have been exposed to hepatitis A at two Hardee’s restaurants located in Spartanburg County.  The restaurants are located at 12209 Greenville Highway in Lyman and 1397 E. Main St. in Duncan.

DHEC’s Spartanburg and Greenville county health departments will continue to provide post-exposure treatments Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., through September 29, 2015.

Customers and staff who consumed food or drink at either of these two restaurants between the dates of Aug. 31 and Sept. 15, 2015, and Sept. 1 and Sept. 13, 2015, respectively, could have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus. A single dose of the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for this type of exposure.

There is no cost for this vaccination while DHEC clinics are open and running due to this incident.  The last day in which the vaccine is beneficial is two weeks (14 days) after the last possible exposure, which was Sept. 15. Therefore, people will be able to receive the vaccine free of charge at our clinics until Sept. 29.

Customers and staff who, as of today, ate at the Lyman-area restaurant between Sept. 8 and Sept. 15, 2015, or the Duncan-area restaurant between Sept. 8 and Sept. 13, 2015, should receive post-exposure treatment for hepatitis A.

As of today, customers and staff who ate at the restaurants between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7 are not likely to benefit from post-exposure treatment.

Anyone who ate at these Hardee’s restaurants between these dates should watch for symptoms of infection, such as nausea, vomiting, and jaundice, which is yellowing of the eyes and skin. Seek medical care if symptoms develop.

Hepatitis A: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food. The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Subway, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr.

If you or a family member became ill with a Hepatitis A infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Hepatitis A attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Brain Eating Amoeba Found in Louisiana Drinking Water

Naegleria+fowleriLate Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) confirmed the presence of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba in the St. Bernard Parish Water System at the site of a leaking sampling station. The water system, which serves 44,000 residents in St. Bernard Parish, was tested by DHH as part of the State’s new public drinking water surveillance program. DHH notified the water system and local officials Wednesday evening. The Department asked the water system to conduct a 60-day chlorine burn to ensure that any remaining amoeba in the system are eliminated. Parish President Dave Peralta confirmed that the system would conduct the burn out of an abundance of caution.

Based on current monthly chloramine residual compliance reports, the water system has met the requirements with Louisiana rules for chloramine disinfectant levels set forth by the 2013 by emergency rule and additional requirements in 2014 by the Louisiana Legislature. Five other sites on the system tested negative for the amoeba and one site did not meet the required level of disinfectant.

Tap water in St. Bernard Parish is safe for residents to drink, but the Department urges residents to avoid getting water in their noses. Naegleria fowleri is an amoeba that occurs naturally in freshwater.

As Naegleria fowleri infections are extremely rare, testing for this amoeba in public drinking water is still relatively new and evolving. Fewer than 10 deaths in the United States have been traced back to the amoeba, with three occurring in Louisiana over the last several years. The amoeba was identified in St. Bernard Parish Water System in the summer of 2013; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the system no longer tested positive for the presence of the amoeba in February 2014.

DHH conducts sampling of public drinking water systems for Naegleria fowleri each summer when temperatures rise. So far, DHH has tested 12 other systems for the amoeba and still awaiting lab results for each.

Naegleria fowleri causes a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is a brain infection that leads to the destruction of brain tissue. In its early stages, symptoms of PAM may be similar to bacterial meningitis.

DHH Safe Drinking Water Program staff sampled seven sites along the St. Bernard Parish Water System. Two of the seven sites tested positive for the amoeba. One positive test was at a site at the water treatment plant before the water was treated. The second positive test occurred at 948 Angela Street, which may have been contaminated by ground water due to a leak at the sampling station. Chlorine levels at the site of the positive sample did meet the 0.5 mg/l requirement. The Department will continue to consult with the water system and the CDC. The Department requested that the water system conduct a 60-day free chlorine burn in the water system. The chlorine burn will help reduce biofilm, or organic buildup, throughout the water system and will kill the amoeba. The parish has agreed to conduct this precautionary measure.

Precautionary Measures for Families:

According to the CDC, every resident can take simple steps to help reduce their risk of Naegleria fowleri infection. Individuals should focus on limiting the amount of water going up their nose. Preventative measures recommended by the CDC include the following:

  • DO NOT allow water to go up your nose or sniff water into your nose when bathing, showering, washing your face, or swimming in small hard plastic/blow-up pools.
  • DO NOT jump into or put your head under bathing water (bathtubs, small hard plastic/blow-up pools); walk or lower yourself in.
  • DO NOT allow children to play unsupervised with hoses or sprinklers, as they may accidentally squirt water up their nose. Avoid slip-n-slides or other activities where it is difficult to prevent water going up the nose.
  • DO run bath and shower taps and hoses for five minutes before use to flush out the pipes. This is most important the first time you use the tap after the water utility raises the disinfectant level.
  • DO keep small hard plastic/blow-up pools clean by emptying, scrubbing and allowing them to dry after each use.
  • DO use only boiled and cooled, distilled or sterile water for making sinus rinse solutions for neti pots or performing ritual ablutions.
  • DO keep your swimming pool adequately disinfected before and during use. Adequate disinfection means:

Residents should continue these precautions until testing no longer confirms the presence of the amoeba in the water system. Residents will be made aware when that occurs. For further information on preventative measures, please visit the CDC website here: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/prevention.html.