Food Safety Scan for Dec 02, 2013

News brief

William Keene, Oregon's top food safety expert, dies unexpectedly

Oregon's senior state epidemiologist, William Keene, PhD, MPH, died yesterday at the age of 56 after a 2-week hospitalization for acute pancreatitis, according to a story in The Oregonian.

He was a passionate sleuth of foodborne disease outbreaks in the area and, notes a Food Safety News (FSN) article, "kept the Oregon Public Health Division at the top of a short list of states known for being able to quickly solve outbreaks of foodborne disease."

A native of Seattle, Keene attended Yale University as an undergraduate and Johns Hopkins and the University of California at Berkeley as a graduate student, where he earned a master's degree in public health and a doctorate in microbiology. Notes the FSN article, he had worked as "Oregon's top food detective" since his 1989 graduation.

His license plate read "O157:H7," the name of the deadly Escherichia coli strain often responsible for foodborne disease outbreaks.
Dec 1 Oregonian article
Dec 2 FSN story
May 6, 2010, Oregonian profile of Keene


Study: 60% of restaurant workers have taken shifts while ill

About 60% of US food workers surveyed had worked while ill, and 20% had worked while sick with vomiting or diarrhea in the previous year, according to a survey released yesterday in the Journal of Food Protection.

Public health officials from various states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted workplace interviews with 491 food workers from 391 randomly selected restaurants in nine states.

Fully 292 (59.5%) said they had worked while ill. Of those, 89% said it was their own decision to work while sick, but 7% said it was solely a management decision, and 3% said it was a joint employee-management call.

The top reasons cited for working while ill were (1) lack of paid sick leave, 43%; (2) understaffing, 32%; (3) the employee did not feel poorly enough or thought the illness was not contagious, 31%; and (4) employee felt obligated, 30%.

In addition, 97 of 487 respondents (19.9%) said they had worked while sick with vomiting or diarrhea in the previous year, and 61% of them had done so on two or more shifts.

The authors recommend policies and practices that encourage restaurant workers to stay home while sick, including training for managers.
Dec 1 J Food Prot abstract

News Scan for Dec 02, 2013

News brief

Improper cleaning of vCJD-exposed instruments 'disgraceful': UK expert

An expert on variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of the animal malady known as mad cow disease, claims that the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) has neglected to employ recently developed methods of sterilizing surgical instruments used on patients with the disease, thus putting subsequent surgical patients at risk, said a story last week in The Independent.

The claimant, Professor John Collinge, led one of several research teams sponsored by NHS more than a decade ago in finding methods that would destroy the prion protein responsible for the disease, which is able to survive the high temperatures of hospital autoclaves, according to the article. His group's method, Collinge says, involves presoaking equipment in a "biological washing powder" of combined enzymes and detergents.

Collinge claims that despite development of effective cleaning methods by his group and several others, the NHS, which he calls "notoriously resistant to change and to introducing new methodologies," has failed to institute any of the suggestions and instead has bounced them around various committees, putting hundreds of subsequent surgical patients at risk.

Those patients, the story says, have been notified of their possible exposure. They have been advised not to donate blood and to tell physicians that they are high risk.

The NHS's answer is that in reviewing Collinge's product, they found "gaps." The new methodologies do not fit into the industrialized washing process, and the agency has instituted other improvements in cleaning the equipment, said a spokesperson.
Nov 27 Independent article


Nearly 10,000 poultry destroyed in H5N3 avian flu outbreak in Netherlands

An outbreak of low-pathogenic H5N3 avian influenza that has resulted in the culling of 9,301 poultry was reported to the International Organization for Animal Health (OIE) today from Sint Annen in the Dutch province of Groningen.

The outbreak, which infected 25 birds, none fatally, began on Nov 27. The last H5N3 outbreak in the area was reported in May. The affected birds in the current outbreak had subclinical infection; their disease was confirmed by basic laboratory tests. All of the birds considered susceptible were killed.

A 1-kilometer buffer zone was established around the premises involved. Vaccination is prohibited, according to the OIE report.
Dec 2 OIE report


Police officer killed while guarding Pakistani polio vaccination team

A policeman protecting polio vaccination workers in Pakistan was killed Nov 30 by gunmen and another was wounded, says an Associated Press (AP) report. The workers were vaccinating children on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwestern part of the country.

More than a dozen polio workers and security personnel have been killed in the past year in Pakistan, one of only three countries where polio remains endemic. Militant groups believe polio vaccination campaign workers to be spies from the West and that the vaccine will render children sterile.

No group has claimed responsibility for this most recent attack, although the Taliban-affiliated Lashkar-e-Islam group has been implicated in other attacks recently.
Nov 30 AP report
Most recent (Nov 25) CIDRAP News scan on Pakistan situation

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