Food Outbreak Scan for May 14, 2015

Swimming-related norovirus
Gecko-linked Salmonella outbreak
Blue Bell Listeria steps

Oregon norovirus outbreak linked to contaminated lake beach

An investigation into a norovirus outbreak near Portland, Ore., in July 2014 revealed that the source was a swimming beach at a park, outlining the risk and need for preventive steps, especially in settings where water isn't treated. Health officials from Oregon and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published their findings today in the latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The outbreak linked to Blue Lake Regional Park sickened 70 people (65 probable, 5 lab-confirmed). No hospitalizations or deaths were reported. A case-control study found that people who swam were more than twice as likely to become ill, compared with those who didn't swim.

The park and lake had a much higher visitor level the weekend before people got sick. The lake's shoreline is shallow near the swimming beach, but it had an operational bubbler to help circulate the water. In the wake of the outbreak, officials closed the beach and limited lake activities for 10 days.

Based on the point source pattern of the outbreak, researchers said the water was probably contaminated by a sick swimmer's vomit or feces and that the high bather load exposed more people to the virus.

The team noted that evidence-based steps are needed for addressing contamination in untreated water venues and that proactive messages to help promote healthy swimming are crucial for reducing the risk of other similar outbreaks.
May 15 MMWR report


Multistate Salmonella outbreak linked to pet geckos

An outbreak of Salmonella Meunchen illness since Jan 1 linked to contact with pet crested geckos has sickened 20 people in 16 states, the CDC announced today (see map below).

The crested geckos, popular pet lizards that come in a variety of different colors, were purchased from multiple pet stores in different states. Three people have been hospitalized, and so far no deaths have been reported. Illnesses were reported from Jan 1 to Mar 7.

Interviews with 11 of the sick patients found that 10 had contact with a crested gecko the week before they got sick. Antibiotic resistance testing on two samples from patients found that the isolates were susceptible to all antibiotics that are part of the testing panel. Further testing is under way.

The CDC said the pet industry is working with the agency to determine the source of the crested geckos involved in the outbreak. It added that it isn't recommending people get rid of or turn loose their geckos but that following simple steps can help avoid infections, such as thorough hand washing with soap after handling geckos or anything in the animals' environment.
May 14 CDC outbreak announcement

 Persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Muenchen, by state of residence, as of May 13, 2015 (n = 20). [CDC map]



Blue Bell agrees to steps for resuming sales after Listeria outbreak

Today the head of Blue Bell Creameries and officials in Texas and Oklahoma signed voluntary agreements outlining steps the company will take to bring its products back to market after a listeriosis outbreak sickened at least 10 people in four states, killing 3, the company said in a press release.

The company had shuttered plants in Broken Arrow, Okla., and Brenham, Tex., in April after Listeria was found in products from those facilities. The agreements are with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Actions that Blue Bell must take include rigorous cleaning and sanitizing, revised testing protocols, revised production procedures, and upgraded employee training. The agreements also call for a trial production period before ice cream is made available to the public.

Listeria-specific steps include conducting root cause analyses, retaining an independent microbiology expert to establish and review controls, notifying Texas and Oklahoma agencies promptly of any Listeria monocytogenes detections, detailing Listeria response steps, and instituting a "test and hold" program to ensure safety before products are shipped or sold.
May 14 Blue Bell press release
May 14 Texas DSHS press release

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