Listeria: Thriving in the Cold
Chris Wiant, M.P.H., PhD

Graph from CDC website: 2011 Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States

The equivalent of 15 semi-truckloads of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream was recalled earlier this year due to possible contamination with Listeria bacteria.  The recall cost the company $2.5 million, but it was the right response.  Another ice cream producer, Blue Bell Creameries, recalled all of its products made at all of its facilities after Listeria was found in its Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.  According to a CDC update, as of May 7, 2015, ten patients from four states had been infected with Listeria from Blue Bell Creameries ice cream.  Three patients from Kansas have died.

CDC estimates that each year one in six Americans—about 48 million of us—experience “food poisoning.”   128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.  Although only about 1600 people get sick from Listeria each year, it is the third leading cause … READ MORE >>


Avoiding Plant Disease in the Backyard Vegetable Garden
Linda Golodner

In springtime, hope springs eternal for a bountiful harvest from the backyard vegetable garden.  One risk to productivity, however, is pathogens (disease-causing microbes) transferred from contaminated planting pots and garden tools to vegetables, a form of cross-contamination.  Here are some tips for avoiding crop loss due to cross-contamination.

Recycle Planting Pots, Not Pathogens

Do you reuse plastic and clay containers for starting seeds indoors? According to the Philadelphia County Master Gardeners website, by recycling these containers, you may be recycling pathogens, mineral and salt deposits, and last year’s weeds.  These experts say a visual inspection of a planting pot is not enough… READ MORE >>


Recent Trends in Waterborne Disease Outbreaks in the US
Fred Reiff, P.E.

Safe water is one of the marvelous hallmarks of life in the United States. To mark Drinking Water Week (May 3 – 9), we offer an overview of recent trends in the relatively rare occurrence of waterborne diseases in the US.

When waterborne outbreaks occur, US local and state health departments are obliged to report them to “WBDOSS,” the national Waterborne Disease and Outbreak Surveillance System.1  Since 1985, outbreak data have been compiled and published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report2 (MMWR).

CDC to EPA:  An Important Feedback Loop

Public water systems serve over 286 million people in the US, according to CDC. These systems are subject to national drinking water standards and regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  In contrast, owners of private wells—representing … READ MORE >>


Antibiotic Resistance and Wastewater Effluent Chlorination
Joan B. Rose, PhD

Does chlorination of sewage treatment plant (STP) effluent reduce or promote antibiotic resistant microorganisms?  Recent research presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society provides evidence that this practice might give rise to trace levels of new, stronger antibiotics, which in turn could possibly foster antibiotic resistant microorganisms.  University of North Carolina researcher Olya Keen, PhD, investigated the chemical products resulting from chlorinating the antibiotic doxycycline during disinfection of STP effluent. She found products with enhanced antibiotic activity, a clue that they might possibly give rise to other resistant bacteria. … READ MORE >>


Hantavirus in North America: Rare but Deadly
Ralph Morris, MD, MPH

The Deer Mouse is one of at least four rodents known to spread hantavirus
(photo courtesy of CDC)

Spring cleaning time is here, and chores may include sweeping out garages, basements, sheds, cottages and cabins.  Keep in mind that these environments may contain rodent droppings, which can present a rare but deadly health risk from hantavirus.  Hantavirus was first recognized in North America in May, 1993 in The Four Corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The first case probably occurred in Utah in 1959.  It has since been found in other states and other countries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website, people become infected with hantaviruses through contact with infected rodents, their urine or their droppings.  To date, CDC has identified Deer Mice, Cotton Rats, Rice Rats and White-footed Mice as hantavirus carriers. Descriptions of these rodents and maps showing … READ MORE >>


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