Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – December 4th, 2006

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

December 4, 2006

Norovirus Sickens Nearly 700 on Cruise Ship

Preliminary tests conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have identified a highly contagious norovirus as the source of a cruise ship intestinal illness outbreak earlier this month. The infection affected approximately 700 passengers and crew members on the Carnival Cruise Line’s “The Liberty.” According to the CDC, an investigative team is attempting to track down the source of the outbreak that began in Rome and affected nearly 550 guests and 150 crew members during the ship’s 16 day voyage.

Norovirus is not one pathogen, but a group of viruses that cause gastrointestinal illness. Symptoms of the infection include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and are spread from person-to-person via personal contact or from transfer of the pathogen to a publicly used surface area, such as railings, door knobs, table tops, phones, computer keyboards, arm rests, etc.

In response to the sweeping shipboard illness, the crew scrubbed a variety of public areas, and discontinued their normal buffet activities. Passengers were also supplied with disinfecting hand gel after the outbreak started.

With a normal infection, the norovirus illness symptoms last approximately two days without any long-term health effects. However, according to a statement by Carnival, 14 guests and 5 crew sustained longer-term illness and remained under observation when the ship arrived in Florida.

For more from CDC on noroviruses, please go to:

For an article from the Water Quality & Health Council on shipboard norovirus illness and steps that can taken to avoid infection, please go to:

Rapid Increase of Salmonella Contamination in Chicken Reported

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a type of Salmonella found primarily in eggs is turning up more often in the meat of broiler chickens. Published in the December issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) journal Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID), the USDA findings showed that while overall infections from Salmonella were lower than in the mid-1990s, U.S. infections from Salmonella enteritica were up 25 percent over the past 5 years.

Symptoms of Salmonella Enteritidis include fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea. In vulnerable populations, including the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems infection, the virus can be fatal. According to the CDC’s Salmonella sickens at least 40,000 people and is causes approximately 600 fatalities in the U.S. every year.

Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis is the most common cause of foodborne salmonellosis worldwide. According to the CDC, it has remained sensitive to most antibiotics, unlike other common serotypes. However, a recent CDC study on food poisoning from Salmonella noted that the risk of illness from Salmonella enterica increased the more people ate outside of the home.

In the past, eggs were contaminated by Salmonella on the outer shell from contact with fecal bacteria from laying hens. However, in recent years, the Salmonella enterica strain has been found inside intact and disinfected Grade A eggs. This finding remains under investigation.

USDA advises that cooking poultry at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit will eradiate the Salmonella germ and that proper food handling and preparation regimes should be observed to reduce infection risk. Those guidelines include using food thermometers for accurate monitoring of cooking temperatures and following basic kitchen safety rules, including hand-washing, separating raw poultry and meat from cooked food, and refrigerating or freezing left over food immediately after use.

For a full reading of the USDA study in EID, please go to:

For an easy-to-use holiday season food safety and handling guide from the Water Quality & Health Council, please go to:

Partnership Brings Clean Drinking Water to Ethiopian Schools

The Chlorine Chemistry Council (CCC) of the American Chemistry Council has partnered with Procter & Gamble (P&G), Save The Children US and Population Services International to distribute P&G’s PUR® Purifier of Water sachets to area schools in Ethiopia. The goal of the program is to aid efforts to reverse the affects of the African nation’s poor water conditions, including preventable childhood diseases and the spread of life-threatening cholera and dysentery.

Developed by P&G in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), PUR® produces high-quality drinking water from otherwise unsafe sources through flocculation and chlorine disinfection. Studies conducted by the CDC and Johns Hopkins University found that using PUR® reduces diarrheal illness by an average of 50%.

To date, more than one million PUR® packets have been distributed in Ethiopia, treating more than 11 million liters of water.

In addition to the in-school program, children will receive two PUR® sachets per week for home use and will also receive training about safe drinking water and personal hygiene.

Ethiopia is one of the six countries that combine to contribute more than half of all preventable mortality among children less than 5 years old worldwide. According to the World Health Organization only 58% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa has access to safe water supplies, and UNICEF reports more than half the world’s schools do not provide access to safe water, proper sanitation.

Vancouver Boil Water Advisory Finally Lifted

Health officers in Vancouver, Canada ended a 12 day boil-water advisory this week affecting approximately two million people throughout the Greater Vancouver Regional District since November 16. The advisory was the largest issued in Canadian history and the first to target a major city.

The Vancouver boil-water advisory was triggered by a series of severe storms that caused extensive mud slides into local reservoirs, muddying drinking water supplies water and creating unprecedented turbidity levels. Although the water was not initially considered contaminated, medical health officials quickly issued an advisory for residents to boil their tap water before using it. After officials conducted nearly 1,000 individual tests and encountered no bacteriological contamination, the advisory was rescinded.

During the alert, residents were directed to wash fruits and vegetables in boiled water and refraining from the use of tap water for everything from washing to teeth brushing while the advisory was in effect. Additionally, as part the boil water information campaign, Canadian health officials advised the public to have at least 72 hours worth of drinking water stocked in their homes in the event of emergencies.

For emergency water storage tips from the Water Quality & Health Council, please go to:

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