Tag Archives: cdc

Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berry mix sickens 87

WASHINGTON – & The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to a frozen berry mix sold at Costco has grown to 87 people with illnesses in eight states. The CDC said Tuesday that illnesses have been reported in Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington. Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., last week recalled its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend, packaged under the Townsend Farms label at Costco and under the Harris Teeter brand at those stores. So far the illnesses have only been linked to the berries sold at Costco. Craig Wilson, director of food safety at Costco, said the store is providing vaccinations for people who ate the berries within the last two weeks and is reimbursing others who have gotten the vaccine outside the store. The store has contacted about 240,000 people who purchased the berries at one of their stores, Wilson said. The company knows who bought the berries because purchases are linked to a membership card that customers present when they check out. The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the cause of the outbreak. The CDC said the strain of hepatitis is rarely seen in North or South America but is found in the North Africa and Middle East regions. Townsend Farms has said the frozen organic blend bag includes pomegranate seeds from Turkey. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can last from a few weeks to a several months. People often contract it when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene. The CDC said that food already contaminated with the virus can also cause outbreaks, as is suspected in this case. Illnesses occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure to the hepatitis A virus, CDC said. Symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool. Vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure, and those who have already been vaccinated are unlikely to become ill. CDC said the illnesses date back to mid-March. The same genotype of hepatitis A was identified in an outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries this year, the CDC said, as well as a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. The agency said there is no evidence the outbreaks are related. Lawsuits have already been filed against Townsend Farms in California, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington state, with more expected in the other affected states, said a spokeswoman for Seattle-based food safety lawyer Bill Marler. The class action lawsuits ask for compensation for the treatment and also reimbursement for the vaccines.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/12/hepatitis-linked-to-frozen-berries-sickens-87/

Oregon passes bill on vaccination education

A bill that is intended to persuade more Oregon parents to take their kids to doctors for shots and get over their mistrust of conventional medicine has taken a big step in the Legislature with passage by the state Senate. Oregon has the nation's highest rate of parents refusing vaccinations for their kindergartners for nonmedical reasons. This school year, 6.4 percent of Oregon kindergartners were exempted from at least one required vaccination, up from 5.8 percent last year. The median nonmedical exemption rate for kindergartners in the U.S. was 1.2 percent for the 2011-2012 school year, the most recent period for which national data was available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are some pockets in the state where parents don't believe vaccinations protect their kids and they choose alternative treatments instead. Those kinds of beliefs have raised concerns that Oregon children aren't being adequately protected. On Thursday, the Senate approved a bill that would make it more difficult for parents to get nonmedical exemptions from vaccines for their children. It now goes to the House. The 16-13 vote was along party lines. The bill riled Republicans who said it trampled on religious freedoms and limited parents' choice. “I'm getting very tired of this legislative assembly and this body taking away the choices of parents as to how they raise their kids,” said Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Roseburg Republican. Republicans pitched an alternative proposal that would have carved out an exemption for “sincerely held religious beliefs,” but the plan failed. As proposed, the bill would still allow parents to refuse vaccinations for religious or philosophical reasons, but only after they'd visited the doctor or watched the educational video. Current state law requires all children in public and private schools, preschools and certified child care facilities to be immunized. Parents, however, can seek exemptions for medical or religious reasons. “I worry that most people who use the religious exemption currently are doing so because of pseudo-scientific misinformation, and not because of their faith,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a Beaverton Democrat and family physician. Under the bill, parents enrolling unvaccinated children in school would have to prove they consulted a physician for information or show verification they watched an online educational video about the risks and benefits of immunization. The educational material would be consistent with the most up-to-date medical information provided by the CDC. Doctors and public health officials back the plan, saying the rate of unvaccinated children in Oregon is alarming and could cause a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases like whooping cough and measles. Similar legislation was passed in Washington in 2011. The following school year, the rate of religious immunization exemptions for kindergartners fell by almost 25 percent, according to CDC data.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/10/oregon-passes-bill-on-vaccination-education/

Costco recalls frozen berries linked to hepatitis outbreak

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to a frozen organic berry mix sold by an Oregon company. The FDA and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that 30 illnesses are linked to Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend, which contains pomegranate seed mix. Illnesses were reported in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California. Several of those who fell ill reported buying the berry mix at Costco, according to CDC. A Costco spokesman said Friday that the company has removed the product from stores and is attempting to contact members who purchased the product since late February. Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that can last from a few weeks to several months. People often contract it when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene. Food already contaminated with the virus can also cause outbreaks. The government has not announced a recall, but the CDC recommended that retailers and other food service operators should not sell or serve Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend. Nine of the people who have been sickened were hospitalized, according to the CDC. Preliminary tests from two cases suggest this is a hepatitis A strain rarely seen in North America, but is found in the North Africa and Middle East regions. The FDA said it is inspecting the processing facilities of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., which sold the mix. Bill Gaar, a lawyer for Townsend Farms, said the frozen organic blend bag includes pomegranate seeds from Turkey, and are only used in the product associated with the outbreak. “We do have very good records, we know where the (pomegranate seeds) came from, we're looking into who the broker is and we're sourcing it back up the food chain to get to it,” Gaar said. He said Townsend Farms believes Costco is the only customer who bought the product, though they are checking to see if any other retailers may have sold it. Hepatitis A illnesses occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool. Vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure, and those who have already been vaccinated are unlikely to become ill, according to CDC. CDC said all of the victims are older than 18, ranging from 25 to 71 years old. The first illnesses were reported at the end of April. The same genotype of hepatitis A was identified in an outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries this year, the CDC said, as well as a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. In addition to the United States and Turkey, the agency said the Townsend Farms berries also included products from Argentina and Chile.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/03/costco-recalls-berries-linked-to-hepatitis-outbreak/

Decontaminating patients cuts hospital infections dramatically

Infections in U.S. hospitals kill tens of thousands of people each year, and many institutions fight back by screening new patients to see if they carry a dangerous germ, and isolating those who do. But a big study suggests a far more effective approach: Decontaminating every patient in intensive care. Washing everyone with antiseptic wipes and giving them antibiotic nose ointment reduced bloodstream infections dramatically in the study at more than 40 U.S. hospitals. The practice could prove controversial, because it would involve even uninfected patients and because experts say it could lead to germs becoming more resistant to antibiotics. But it worked better than screening methods, now required in nine states. The study found that 54 patients would need to be decontaminated to prevent one bloodstream infection. Nevertheless, the findings are “very dramatic” and will lead to changes in practice and probably new laws, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious-disease specialist who was not involved in the research. Some hospitals are already on board. The study targeted ICU patients, who tend to be older, sicker, weaker and most likely to be infected with dangerous bacteria, including drug-resistant staph germs. The decontamination method worked like this: For up to five days, 26,000 ICU patients got a nose swab twice a day with bacteria-fighting ointment, plus once-daily bathing with antiseptic wipes. Afterward, they were more than 40 percent less likely to get a bloodstream infection of any type than patients who had been screened and isolated for a dangerous germ called MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In the year before the experiment began, there were 950 bloodstream infections in intensive care patients at the hospitals studied. The results suggest that more than 400 of those could have been prevented if all hospitals had used the decontamination method. “We've definitively shown that it is better to target high-risk people,” not high-risk germs, said lead author Dr. Susan Huang, a researcher and infectious-disease specialist at the University of California, Irvine. The hospitals in the study are all part of the Hospital Corporation of America system, the nation's largest hospital chain. HCA spokesman Ed Fishbough said the 162-hospital company is adopting universal ICU decontamination. The study was published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study focused on the MRSA germ. It can live on the skin or in the nose without causing symptoms but can be life-threatening when it reaches the bloodstream or vital organs. It is especially dangerous because it is resistant to many antibiotics. More than 70,000 ICU patients were randomly selected to get one of three treatments: MRSA screening and isolation; screening, isolation and decontamination of MRSA carriers only; and universal decontamination without screening. Partial decontamination worked better than just screening, and universal decontamination was best. About a decade ago, hospital-linked invasive MRSA infections sickened more than 90,000 people nationwide each year, leading to roughly 20,000 deaths. As hospitals improved cleanliness through such measures as better hand-washing and isolating carriers of deadly germs, those numbers dropped by about a third, with fewer than 10,000 deaths in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has been recommending screening and isolation in certain cases. Now it's having experts review the results and help determine whether the agency should revise its recommendations, said the CDC's Dr. John Jernigan. “It is a very important finding. It advances our understanding of how best to control infections caused by MRSA” and other germs, Jernigan said. The CDC and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality helped pay for the study. Dr. Carolyn Clancy, who heads the research agency, said the findings have “the potential to influence clinical practice significantly and create a safer environment where patients can heal without harm.” Jernigan said the decontamination approach is much simpler than screening and isolation. But he said its costs need to be studied. Huang said the five-day nose treatment costs about $35 for brand-name ointment but only $4 for a generic version. The antiseptic wipes cost only about $3 to $5 more per day than usual washing methods, she said. But those costs might be offset by other savings from avoiding widespread screening and isolation, she said. Intensive care patients are already routinely bathed. The study just swapped soap with wipes containing a common antiseptic. Some study authors have received fees from makers of antiseptic wipes or have done research or unpaid consulting for those companies. The nose ointment treatment is more controversial because it could cause more germs to become resistant to the antibiotic, Jernigan said. “That's something we're going to have to very closely monitor if this practice is implemented widely,” he said. An editorial accompanying the study voices similar concerns and notes that research published earlier this year found that using just antiseptic wipes on ICU patients reduced bloodstream infections. Two infection control specialists at Virginia Commonwealth University wrote the editorial. Editorial co-author Dr. Michael Edmond said his university's hospital is among those that already use antiseptic wipes on ICU patients. While MRSA screening and isolation is widely accepted, Edmond said that approach “takes a toll on patients.” Isolating patients who test positive for MRSA but don't have symptoms makes patients angry and depressed, and studies have shown that isolated patients are visited less often by nurses and tend to have more bedsores and falls, he said.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/30/decontaminating-patients-cuts-hospital-infections/

Mystery illnesses in Alabama mostly colds and flu, tests show

Officials investigating a cluster of mysterious illnesses in Alabama have so far found only cold and flu viruses. In tests on seven of the nine patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no sign that the illnesses were caused by any single germ, CDC spokeswoman Sharon Hoskins said in an email. Meanwhile, Alabama officials said they had added two more cases to the cluster, which included two earlier deaths. Seven of the cases were reported last week, including the deaths. The two new illnesses were reported this week. Most of the nine were treated at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, but one was seen at a hospital in Crenshaw County. Health officials have described the patients as ranging in age from 20 to more than 80. The nine people suffered a flu-like illness with symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath. Mysterious illnesses are always unnerving, but the cluster report came at a particularly sensitive time. Health officials have been monitoring two deadly new illnesses that recently surfaced in different parts of the world — one a deadly form of bird flu that has appeared in China, the other a SARS-like coronavirus that seems to have originated in the Middle East. The bird flu has caused 131 illnesses and 32 deaths since the beginning of the year, according to the World Health Organization. The SARS-like virus (called MERS) has been identified as the cause of 44 illnesses, including 22 deaths, the WHO said. Neither seems to be highly contagious so far, and neither illness has been reported in the United States. But in a world of daily international air travel, it's always possible that a concerning new germ will hitchhike on an infected globetrotter and enter this country. The CDC tested the Alabama patients for MERS, for different forms of flu and for more than a dozen other illnesses, the agency spokeswoman said.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/23/mystery-illness-in-alabama-mostly-colds-and-flu-tests-show/

Up to 1 in 5 children suffer from a mental disorder, CDC says

Up to 20 percent of children in the United States suffer from a mental disorder, and the number of kids diagnosed with one has been rising for more than a decade, according to a report released on Thursday by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In the agency's first-ever study of mental disorders among children aged 3 to 17, researchers found childhood mental illnesses affect up to one in five kids and cost $247 billion per year in medical bills, special education and juvenile justice. Children with mental disorders - defined as “serious deviations from expected cognitive, social, and emotional development” - often have trouble learning in school, making friends, and building relationships later in life, the report said. They are more likely to have other chronic health problems, such as asthma and diabetes, and are at risk for developing mental illnesses as adults. “This is a deliberate effort by CDC to show mental health is a health issue. As with any health concern, the more attention we give to it, the better. It's parents becoming aware of the facts and talking to a healthcare provider about how their child is learning, behaving, and playing with other kids,” Dr. Ruth Perou, the lead author of the study, said in an interview. “What's concerning is the number of families affected by these issues. But we can do something about this. Mental health problems are diagnosable, treatable and people can recover and lead full healthy lives,” Perou added. The study cited data collected between 1994 and 2011 that showed the number of kids with mental disorders is growing. The study stopped short of concluding why, but suggested improvements in diagnoses as one possible explanation “Changes in estimated prevalence over time might be associated with an actual change in prevalence, changes in case definition, changes in the public perception of mental disorders, or improvements in diagnosis, which might be associated with changes in policies and access to health care,” the study said. Perou said more research was needed to determine the specific causes of mental disorders, and that greater awareness could lead to an uptick in diagnoses. A host of environmental factors, including chemical exposure and poverty, can also affect a child's mental health, she said. Lead, for example, is known to be “one of the biggest toxins to impact behavior and learning,” Perou said. Poor children are at a higher risk for developing certain conditions, according to the study. The most prevalent mental health diagnosis, as reported by parents, was Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which affects 6.8 percent of children. Also common were behavioral conduct problems (3.5 percent), anxiety, which consists mostly of fears and phobias (3 percent), depression (2.1 percent) and autism spectrum disorders (1.1 percent). Many of these disorders occur together, the report said. Boys were found more likely to have most of the listed disorders except for depression and alcohol abuse, which affect more girls. The study also noted that suicide, which can be precipitated by an untreated mental illness, was the second leading cause of death (after accidents) among children 12 to 17 years old. The CDC report was based on multiple other studies that collected data and interviewed children and their guardians about their diagnoses, habits, behaviors and other factors.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/17/up-to-1-in-5-children-suffer-from-mental-disorder-cdc-says/

Deaths from West Nile virus hit record last year

U.S. health officials say last year was the worst ever for West Nile virus deaths. The final tally reported Monday was 286 deaths - or two more than the record set in 2002. But there were far fewer illnesses overall, and fewer serious cases than in previous years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had predicted it would be a bad year because of weather conditions that promote breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people. The CDC report Monday showed Texas had nearly a third of the serious cases, and about a third of the deaths. West Nile virus was first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, but no cases were reported in the U.S. until 1999 in New York. It gradually spread to the West Coast.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/14/deaths-from-west-nile-virus-hit-record-last-year/

Teen who text and drive also likelier to take other risks in car

Teenagers who text while driving are also more likely to engage in other risky activities, such as riding with an intoxicated driver or not wearing a seatbelt, a new study suggests. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found four in every nine high school students had sent or received texts while driving in the past month. “Considering it's against the law for teens to be texting while driving in 45 states, it's a little concerning,” said Emily Olsen, a health statistician in the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health and the report's lead author. Past studies conducted in single states have found anywhere from one quarter to almost three quarters of teenagers text while driving, the study team wrote Monday in Pediatrics. To get a more nationally representative picture, Olsen and her colleagues analyzed responses to the CDC's annual youth risk survey. On the 2011 survey, conducted in public and private schools across the country, 8,505 high school students ages 16 and older were asked about potentially dangerous driving behaviors they had engaged in over the past month. Just under 45 percent had texted while driving at least once during that span, and close to 12 percent of teens said they texted behind the wheel every day. Although the study team didn't measure how cell phone use may have affected safety in the car, past research shows that texting while driving can slow reaction times and impair a driver's ability to stay in one lane. The more frequently students reported texting and driving, the more likely they were to also answer “yes” to other risky behaviors, the researchers found. For example, 3 percent of teens who didn't text at the wheel had recently driven after drinking alcohol. That compared to 19 percent who reported texting and driving at least once in the past month and 34 percent who said they texted in the car daily. Likewise, 19 percent of non-texters had ridden in a car with another driver who had been drinking, versus 33 percent of high school students who reported texting and driving themselves. “It's concerning that kids are participating in these multiple behaviors, either while they're driving or while they're a passenger,” Olsen said. “Each one of these things is quite dangerous (on its own).” Jessica Mirman, who has studied teen motor vehicle cell phone use at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Injury Research and Prevention, agreed. “That just really highlighted that as far as prevention goes, we really need something comprehensive,” Mirman, who wasn't involved in the new research, said. “It's not just about texting. It's not just about drinking.” Olsen said parents have the best chance of being able to curb unsafe activities in the car by continuing to talk with their children about safe driving even after they have their license. Teens, she pointed out, are already more likely to get into - and have trouble getting out of - dangerous situations on the road, due to their inexperience. “Anything that takes their attention away from the task of driving, it can wait,” she said. Parents who are worried about their teens' driving behavior should reach out to their pediatrician or a school counselor, Mirman advised, as that risk-taking might reflect other underlying problems.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/13/teen-texting-at-wheel-tied-to-more-driving-risks/