Entries in Bacteria (37)


Colorado Cantaloupes Prompt Warning After Multi-State Listeria Outbreak

Medioimages/Photodisc(ATLANTA) -- Colorado cantaloupes are the latest food to go under the microscope after the melons were linked to four deaths and 16 cases of Listeria, a potentially deadly bacterial infection.

While the FDA has not announced a recall on the fruit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of the multi-state outbreak that health officials believe originated from the popular Rocky Ford cantaloupes, which are produced in the Arkansas Valley of Colorado. The cases were reported in five states: Colorado, Texas, Indiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

"We've had [more than 10] cases in Colorado since Aug. 1 that are now linked to the multi-state outbreak," said Mark Salley, communications director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "Typically, Colorado sees about 10 cases of Listeria per year, so when we saw so many since Aug. 1, we knew that was significant and decided to look into the multi-state nature of the illness."

Jensen Farms, of Holly, Colo. has already voluntarily recalled their shipment of Rocky Ford whole cantaloupe to the following states: Illinois, Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The Jensen Farms whole cantaloupes in question have a green-and-white sticker that reads "Product of USA-Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe" or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads "Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords."

Listeriosis is a rare and serious illness that mostly affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and those with compromised immune systems. A person who comes down with it usually experiences fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and confusion. The infection almost always spreads to the gastrointestinal tract, and it can cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.

The FDA released a statement Tuesday noting that the government agency is working closely with the CDC and state health officials to investigate the multi-state listeriosis outbreak.

"Both FDA and state public health officials have collected product and environmental samples," the FDA said in the statement. "Laboratory testing is under way."

Most FDA recalls are voluntary, but since January 2011, the FDA has the authority to require a recall through the Food Safety Modernization Act.

For a recall to be ordered or requested, FDA must identify products involved and have at least some evidence that there is a "reasonable probability that an article of food...will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals."

Greg Conko, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said that most Americans' food worries are about microbial infections and chemical concerns. Anxiety tends to fluctuate from year to year, depending on whether there's been a recent high-profile recall.

"In any given year, roughly 40 to 50 percent of U.S. respondents will report that they are concerned about microbial contamination," said Conko.

"Most Americans respond to the latest issue (ground turkey, tomatoes, etc.) whatever is the current recall 'crisis," said Dr. David Acheson, managing director of the food and import safety practice at Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in health care and food safety. "Parents of young children are often concerned for obvious reasons. As time passes, consumers tend to forget, so when there is a spate of big recalls and lots of news, the concern goes up accordingly then drops away as the issue disappears."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Overuse of Antibiotics May Cause Long-Term Harm

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While antibiotics have certainly benefited society in myriad ways, an overuse of antibiotics may be changing our entire bacterial makeup, says Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center.

In his opinion piece published in the journal Nature, Blaser implores doctors to be more prudent in prescribing antibiotics because of these potential changes, and because over-prescribing can cause antibiotic resistance, which has received much attention in recent years.

"Antibiotics are miraculous," Blaser told ABC News.  "They've changed health and medicine over the last 70 years.  But when doctors prescribe antibiotics, it is based on the belief that there are no long-term effects.  We've seen evidence that suggests antibiotics may permanently change the beneficial bacteria that we're carrying."

In the editorial, Blaser hypothesized that the overuse of antibiotics may even be fueling the "dramatic increase" in many illnesses, including type 1 diabetes, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease by destroying the body's friendly flora, or protective bacteria.

"We need to cut down on excess use," said Blaser.  "Over time, the scientific community has to create a more narrow spectrum of antibiotics to kill specific organisms and not all bacteria, but we don't have those yet."

Dr. Cesar Arias, assistant professor of infectious disease at University of Texas Medical School, wholeheartedly agreed with the editorial.

"We use these without much care and without really thinking," said Arias.  "People go to the doctor for a sore throat, which is usually viral, and they're get antibiotics."

"These drugs affect what we're colonized with, particularly the digestive tract," said Arias.  "If you alter your flora, you can promote certain superbugs to colonize in your gut and get into the bloodstream."

The average American child will receive 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics by the time he is 18 years old, and one-third to one-half of pregnant women will receive them during pregnancy, according to Blaser's report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Tick-Borne Bacteria Found in Wisconsin, Minnesota Patients

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Researchers have found a new kind of tick-borne illness that sickened four people in Wisconsin and Minnesota in 2009, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The new species of tick bacteria, now being referred to as Ehrlichia Wisconsin HM543746, is almost identical to the species E. muris, which is thought to be indigenous to eastern Europe and Asia.

The four victims fell ill in the summer and early fall of 2009, exhibiting feverish symptoms.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Picnics, Pools, Public Bathrooms: Summer's Germy Hotspots

Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/ Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The germs of summer are out in full force, hiding in picnic food, pools, and public bathrooms.

Bacteria thrive in the season's swelter, and the infections they spark can cast a dark shadow on a sunny day.  But a little caution can help keep summer safe and sanitary.

Don't Spoil Your Dinner

Cooking and eating outside can be fun, but bacteria can flourish in food that's undercooked and flock to fare that has been sitting out in the sun, so be prepared to cook meat thoroughly and keep creamy sides cool.

Heat Things Up

To kill food-borne bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking cuts of meat to an internal temperature of 145 degrees and waiting at least three minutes before digging in.  Ground meat should reach 160 degrees, and poultry 165 degrees.  Keep meat hot until it's time to eat, and don't let it sit out for more than two hours; one hour if it's hotter than 90 degrees out.

Keep It Cool

Summer staples like potato salad and coleslaw can turn a picnic sour if they get too warm.  Use ice or frozen gel packs to keep cold food below 40 degrees until it's time to eat.  And once it's served, don't let it sit out for more than two hours; one hour if it's hotter than 90 degrees out.

Keep Cuts Under Wraps

Summer is bound to bring scrapes.  Clean out a cut with clean water and quickly cover it with a bandage, said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.  If the bandage gets wet, take it off and dry the skin before replacing it with a fresh one.  And check to see whether the skin around the scrape is red or puffy, signs that it might be infected.

"If an infection does occur, that's a time to call your doctor because it could be a staph infection," Schaffner said, "and you'll want to get that treated right away."

Throw in the Towel

Bacteria love dark, damp places, rolled up beach towels included.

"There have been outbreaks of MRSA infections associated with, how shall we say, 'casual hygienic practices,'" Schaffner said.

Between dips, hang towels and swim trunks up so they can dry thoroughly.  And don't forget to launder them. Getting wet is not the same as getting washed.

Be Prepared for Public Bathrooms

Busy parks and beaches mean heavy traffic through public bathrooms.  Be prepared for an empty toilet paper roll or a dearth of paper towels, Schaffner said, and bring along hand sanitizer and some tissue.

Take Care of Bites, Burns

Whether it's a mosquito bite or blistering sunburn, itchy skin is bacteria's ticket from fingernails into fragile skin.  Avoid the urge to scratch though, Schaffner said, which can cause a break in the skin.

Other Summer Safety Tips

Stay protected from the sun and the heat by wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated.  And be careful around water: about 10 people die each day from unintentional drowning, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the sixth leading cause of unintentional injury or death.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Length of Doctors' Sleeves Doesn't Impact Bacteria

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DENVER, Colo.) -- Based on the assumption that long-sleeves lead to lots of bacterial contamination among physicians, governmental agencies in the United Kingdom and Scotland have recently instituted guidelines banning physicians' white coats and the wearing of long-sleeves garments to decrease the transmission of bacteria within the hospitals.

But a new study suggests that the length of sleeves may not really matter after all.

Researchers at the University of Colorado tested uniforms of 100 physicians who were randomly assigned to wear either short-sleeved or long-sleeved uniforms at the start of their day.  By testing for the presence of bacteria on the physicians’ wrists, cuffs and pockets, the study found there was no difference in bacterial contamination between the long-sleeved white coats and short-sleeved uniforms.

The author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, concluded the data “do not support discarding white coats for uniforms that are changed on a daily basis, or for requiring health care workers to avoid long-sleeved garments”.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NYC Department of Health Reports Six New Meningitis Cases

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, and is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis tends to be less severe than bacterial.

Bacterial can cause brain damage, hearing loss, learning disabilities and even death, sometimes in a matter of hours.

According to the National Meningitis Association, about 1,500 Americans were diagnosed with meningitis each year between 1998 and 2007, and 11 percent died of the illness.

Among those who survived, about 20 percent suffer from long-term side effects, including brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss or limb amputations.

"The numbers aren't that high, but when one of them is your kid, it doesn't matter what the numbers are," said Kelly Madison, president of the Meningitis Foundation of America.

Now, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is reporting six new cases of bacterial meningitis.

Two Manhattan women in their 20s and a Staten Island woman in her 50s died from the illness in the past month.

The six patients ranged in age, from four to 47, but health officials said that strains of the infection were different and not likely linked.

In response to the six cases, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sent a memo to health care providers across the city to remind doctors and nurses to report meningitis cases as soon as possible.

"We sent out an alert to remind doctors to report a meningitis case immediately, and also to remind them that, especially at this time of year, meningitis can look like the flu and other things," said Dr. Donald Weiss, director of surveillance for bureau of communicable disease investigator for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While the six cases were not likely related, Weiss said that it's important for physicians to keep meningitis on their radar, especially during cold and flu season.

Warning signs of meningitis include fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, eye sensitivity to light, stiff neck, confusion and a purple skin rash that usually covers large parts of the limbs.

"A lot of these meningitis cases can feel like the carton variety flu, so it can be quite difficult to pinpoint, that's why you should look for things like severe headache and stiff neck, " said Dr. Lee Harrison, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "And the rash [along with other symptoms] should be an immediate red flag." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Holiday Leftovers: Delicious or Deadly?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After countless hours fussing over a holiday feast, you may see leftovers as liberation from the kitchen. But before you reheat and eat that once-hot turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole or custard pie, you should know that they can make you so sick you might wish you were dead.

Food safety specialists explain that when cooked foods linger more than two hours at room temperature, they can become mess halls for colorless, odorless, tasteless bacteria.

You might suspect such dangers in meat or turkey, and you've probably heard that it's important to separate turkey from the stuffing when storing them. But what might surprise you is that even simple, starchy dishes like mashed potatoes enter a bacterial "danger zone" at temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, toxic bacteria can quickly multiply, stealing your holiday spirit -- and squashing your appetite.

Given enough warmth, nutrients and moisture, a single bacterium dividing every half-hour can produce 17 million offspring in 12 hours, according to figures cited by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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