Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – Novemner 22nd, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

November 22, 2002

USDA Puts Pressure on Meat Industry to Comply with Preventive Standards

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a food-safety directive aimed at preventing contamination with Listeria monocytogenes at meat processing plants producing ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. Under the directive, producers that do not have an evaluated testing regime designed or do not submit their test results to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will be subjected to intensified testing by FSIS officials, consisting of increased testing of the final product, food contact surfaces and plant environment. The directive comes as the FSIS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to investigate the source of an outbreak of listeriosis that has stricken 50 people with illness and claimed the lives of seven people in the northeast. Symptoms of Listeria are usually short-term and include severe headache, high fever, abdominal pain, stiffness, nausea and diarrhea. However, those with weakened immune systems may face critical risks. Contracting Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women and severe infections among newborns and the elderly.

To read the directive in pdf format, please visit:
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/DraftIssuances/102403.pdf ( PDF)

Swimming Pools Identified as Growing Source of Illness

According to two CDC studies, swimming pools may be the source of growing health problems for Americans. The first report, released on Thursday, attributes the incidence of Cryptosporidium for the dramatic increase in swimming-related illnesses between 1990 and 2000. The CDC data indicates that there were no Crypto outbreaks prior to 1990. But in 1991, there were six outbreaks involving hundreds of people. Then, between 1997 and 1998, 32 outbreaks were reported, involving more than 2,000 people. The study also shows more than 60 outbreaks in 2000. The second CDC study, yet to be released but previewed at a recent conference, finds that Americans who swim in pools are 10.6 times more likely to contract Cryptosporidium than those who do not swim. According to the CDC, better filtration and disinfectant technology geared for swimming pools is needed. The agency also urges people not to swim if they have diarrhea and to try to keep toddlers from soiling pools. Cryptosporidium, spread through fecal matter, can cause diarrhea and fever, with symptoms lasting a few weeks. However, certain vulnerable populations – including children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems – may be more susceptible to serious illnesses.

For more information, please visit:
http://www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming/

After Tragic Scare, Peoria, AZ Gets Green Light to Resume Drinking Water Usage

The City of Peoria, Arizona recently resumed supplying water to its residents after the tragic deaths of two five-year olds in October was linked to a rare form of amoebic meningitis, a disease usually contracted through water. Maricopa County Environmental Services Department officials reported that results from the state lab confirmed that the City of Peoria’s water was clear of any bacteria and that chlorine residuals were high (according to the CDC, a chlorine level of .5 mg/l would kill the dangerous bacteria; the Arizona state lab reported that chlorine residuals in the water system tested between .71-3.5 mg/l). The source of the exposure to the amoeba remains unclear, as results from an analysis are pending.

For more information, visit:
http://www.maricopa.gov/pio/water/

Cruise Ship Battles Norwalk Virus

The Holland America Line, Inc. cruise ship Amsterdam continues to contend with the Norwalk gastrointestinal virus, a highly infectious disease that has caused illness among more than 500 travelers over the past four weeks. Following the most recent outbreak, which caused over 200 passengers to be sent home early, a crew of 600 used a chlorine-based solution to disinfect every surface of the ship, down to the equipment used for passenger leisure. The ship is currently in operation, and is scrubbed each time it docks at its home-based in Florida. However, Holland America officials will soon decide whether to dock the ship for a week to ensure the virus is completely destroyed. The CDC investigated the outbreak and concluded the illness was spread from person-to-person contact, rather than through food or water supply. Caused by poor hygiene and spread by contact, the virus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. It is considered particularly dangerous for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

For more information, visit:
http://www.cdc.gov/travel/other/cruiseship_recommend.htm

Two New Web Sites Provide Drinking Water Information to Consumers

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the CDC recently just launched features on their respective web sites designed to help consumers become better informed about drinking water issues. The AWWA’s “Consumer Water Center” provides general drinking water background and fact sheets, information on water security and educational materials for children. On the CDC site, “My Water’s Fluoride” allows those in participating states to access basic information about their water systems and identify the target fluoride level. Knowing the fluoride level in a given municipality can help parents better make decisions about whether to add fluoride supplements to their children’s water to help prevent tooth decay. The “Oral Health Maps” feature also provides demographic and water fluoridation information for participating states.

To access the sites, please visit:
http://www.awwa.org/advocacy/learn/ and http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/data_systems/index.htm

In The News… is a bi-weekly, online service from the Water Quality & Health Council. The publication is updated every other Friday and can be viewed by logging onto www.waterandhealth.org. To receive the publication via e-mail, please click here and enter your e-mail address to join our mailing list.

Subscribe to receive the weekly "Water Quality & Health Council Perspectives"