Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – August 2nd, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

August 2, 2002

E.coli Contamination Sparks Second-Largest Ground Beef Recall in U.S. History

A voluntary recall of 18.6 million pounds of potentially E.coli-contaminated ground beef has been issued after 19 cases of illness were reported in three states. The beef, processed in the Greeley, CO ConAgra Foods, Inc. plant in late May, may already have been mostly consumed according to officials, but the contamination has not claimed any lives. Most often, E.coli causes illness between five and ten days after consumption. The voluntary recall affects sales in 21 states and is the second largest of its kind in U.S. history. To prevent illness, health experts advise cooking beef thoroughly at a temperature of 160 degrees to kill contaminating bacteria.

For more information, visit:

Chicago Tribune Reports Hospital-Acquired Infections on the Rise

Last week, the Chicago Tribune ran a lengthy series concerning hospital-acquired infections, a serious and growing public health threat in the United States. Last year, the CDC reported that 90,000 deaths in 2000 were linked to hospital infections. Many of the deaths were linked to unsanitary facilities, germ-laden instruments and unwashed hands. The Tribune articles report that infection rates are soaring nationally. Officials note that hospital infections are often preventable by simple, inexpensive measures, including strict adherence to hand washing policies and proper disinfection of surfaces and instruments. In response to the Tribune series, Kenneth Robbins, President of the Illinois Hospital Association, noted, “Hospitals work hard and unceasingly at infection control. It is a never-ending process that pervades every aspect of hospital planning and operations, from how hospitals are designed and constructed, to their traffic-flow patterns, to the medical instruments and clothing they purchase…. Infection control is far from simple. Hospitals must maintain a balance between their increasingly limited resources and their increasingly challenging responsibility for healing the sick and saving lives”

To learn more about hospital-acquired infections, visit:
To read the Chicago Tribune series, visit:
For a performance report on your local hospital, visit:

Carmona Confirmed as U.S. Surgeon General

Dr. Richard H. Carmona was sworn in last week at the nation’s new Surgeon General. Carmona’s experience ranges from surgeon to SWAT team leader to Arizona deputy sheriff to his most recent position as a clinical surgery professor at the University of Arizona. Members of the Senate approved him by a unanimous voice vote, after voting 98 to 0 to limit debate on his confirmation. Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said Dr. Carmona would be “a strong and vigorous leader in our efforts to combat chronic conditions and lead this nation to better health.”

To view the Department of Health and Human Services’ statement, visit:

E.Coli a Difficult Kill for UV

A recent Canadian study found that Ultraviolet (UV) lamps used in drinking water disinfection sometimes fail to destroy E. Coli bacteria existing in the water. Commonly used low-pressure UV lamps cannot prevent the bacteria from regenerating their DNA after exposure, but medium-pressure lamps do work better, according to the scientists from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, whose study appears in the July issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. “Bacteria have been around for millions of years, and they have been exposed to the sun for millions of years, so it’s not surprising that they would develop a mechanism to repair themselves after UV exposure,” says Peter M. Huck, a water treatment engineering professor who participated in the study. According to the CDC, while there are hundreds of strains of E. Coli, there have been relatively few U.S. health outbreaks as a result of water contamination. The four known harmful strains most generally spread through food, such as uncooked hamburger, infected lettuce and sprouts, and unpasteurized milk and juice.

To read an abstract of the study, visit:

New CDC Ads Promote Fitness Among Children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently launched a $125 million national marketing campaign to encourage exercise among children, particularly targeting “tweens” aged 9-13. According to CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, only 27% of children in the United States attend physical education classes daily – down from 42% in just the past nine years. The CDC notes that decreasing physical activity, together with unhealthful eating, has resulted in a doubling of the percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight over the past twenty years. The new campaign will include television commercials to be aired during prime children’s viewing hours. In addition, the CDC will sponsor a prominent Nickelodeon show, “Wild & Crazy Kids,” along with the show’s event tour in nine cities, which will feature physical competitions for children.

For further information about obesity among children and the CDC’s Youth Media Campaign, please visit:

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