Chipotle E. Coli outbreaks appear to be over, CDC says

Two E. Coli outbreaks linked to Chipotle restaurants appear to be over, officials said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it still doesn’t know what specific ingredient was behind the outbreaks, though it hasn’t received word of any illnesses since Dec. 1.

The CDC said 60 people in 14 states fell ill last October and November, and 22 were hospitalized. The organization interviewed 59 of those people, and 52 of them said they had eaten at Chipotle.

The CDC collected food from several Chipotle restaurants, though none of its tests showed signs of the bacteria. The organization said a food source is only identified in 46 percent of outbreaks, and it can be hard to determine the exact item responsible for the illnesses in cases where restaurants cook several ingredients together and serve them in different menu items.

According to the CDC, the first E. Coli outbreak affected 55 people in Washington, Oregon, California, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York Ohio and Pennsylvania. The second outbreak, which featured a different strain of the bacteria, sickened five people in Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. None of the 60 people died or developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure that sometimes occurs following E. Coli infections.

Chipotle has said it has since implemented new food safety protocols, and announced earlier this month that it will close all of its restaurants for four hours on Feb. 8 for a food safety meeting.

The outbreaks were just a part of the recent struggles for Chipotle.

The restaurant also told investors earlier this month that it was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with an “isolated norovirus incident” in August at a California restaurant. The same message indicated a norovirus outbreak in December at a Boston restaurant “worsened the adverse financial and operating impacts” Chipotle experienced from the E. Coli outbreaks.

Norovirus and E. Coli are both foodborne illnesses that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, according to the CDC.

Chipotle’s stock was trading at $750.42 on Oct. 13, near an all-time high, but tumbled to $404.26 on Jan. 12 amid the E. Coli and norovirus concerns. That was a 54 percent drop.

The stock has rebounded slightly and was trading at $472.64 on Monday afternoon.

CDC has new questions about 39-state salmonella outbreak

Health officials have new questions about a deadly salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 900 people nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this week.

Since the beginning of July, the CDC says 888 people in 39 states have been affected by the outbreak, which has been blamed on contaminated cucumbers that were imported from Mexico.

The outbreak has killed at least four people and sent 191 people to the hospital, the CDC said.

After an investigation, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and Custom Produce Sales each initiated cucumber recalls in the first half of September as a result of possible contamination.

However, the CDC’s latest update on the outbreak said 106 people have fallen ill after Sept. 24, when all of the recalled cucumbers should have been either off the shelves or spoiled. That includes 50 people who have gotten sick since Nov. 19, when the CDC last issued an update.

The CDC said an investigation into the new illnesses is ongoing, and officials are trying to determine if cross-contamination from the recalled cucumbers could be to blame.

The organization is encouraging anyone who might have bought or sold recalled cucumbers to wash and sanitize drawers, shelves, crates or reusable grocery bags where the vegetables were stored.

The CDC has not yet determined any other food item that could be causing people to get sick.

Illnesses have been reported in every state except Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.

While the rate of reported illnesses has dropped since the recalls were issued, the CDC says it’s still above what is expected for this time of year. And the latest update indicated one person got sick in Tennessee, a state that had not previously reported any illnesses tied to the outbreak.

Salmonella usually triggers a mild illness that can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, the CDC says, and most people recover within a week without any treatment. But children, older adults and those with weak immune symptoms are particularly at risk of severe infections.

According to the CDC, an estimated 1.2 million people in the United States get sick from salmonella every year. About 19,000 of them are hospitalized and about 450 of them die.

California has reported the most illnesses tied to this outbreak, with 241 people getting sick there. The CDC said that three of them died, though salmonella likely wasn’t a factor in two cases. The outbreak is also being blamed for one death apiece in Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas.

Dole recalls packaged salads after multi-state listeria outbreak

Dole is temporarily shutting down one of its production facilities and recalling all of the salads that were made there because the facility has been linked to a multi-state outbreak of listeria.

The recall notice was posted on the Food and Drug Administration website on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has been investigating the outbreak, said 12 people in six states have been hospitalized since July. One person died.

The CDC determined that salads produced and packaged at Dole’s facility in Springfield, Ohio, were likely behind the illnesses. Dole initiated the recall and decided to temporarily suspend production at the facility “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the recall notice.

The salads in question were sold under a variety of different brand names — including Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar and President’s Choice, the CDC said. However, they all have the letter ‘A’ at the beginning of a product code that appears on the upper-right-hand corner of the package, according to Dole’s recall notice.

Dole said none of its other products or facilities are affected by the recall, and added that packaged salads that have ‘B’ or ‘N’ at the start of their product codes aren’t being recalled. Those salads were produced at different facilities, and the CDC added that it doesn’t currently have any evidence suggesting those salads are linked to the outbreak.

Dole said the recalled salads were sold in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec.

The company encouraged consumers and stores who still have packaged salads with product codes beginning with ‘A’ to throw them out without eating them.

According to the CDC, listeria is a bacteria that can lead to listeriosis, a rare but life-threatening condition that is often contracted by eating contaminated food. The organization estimates that listeriosis sickens about 1,600 people annually in the United States, killing about 260 of them.

Newborns, older adults people with weak immune systems and pregnant women are generally at risk, the CDC says, and the bacteria can lead to miscarriages or stillbirths. Common symptoms include fever and muscle aches, though the disease can also cause convulsions in certain people.

This particular outbreak sickened people in Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, according to the CDC, and killed a person from Michigan.

CDC issues more travel notices about Zika virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday issued more travel notices about the Zika virus, warning travelers about the potential risks of the mosquito-borne illness.

The notices were issued one week after the CDC advised pregnant women who were planning to travel to 14 countries and territories where outbreaks of the virus were occurring to consider postponing their trips while scientists probe a potential tie between Zika and a rare birth defect.

The notices issued Friday added eight additional countries or territories to the list, bringing the total to 22. The warnings are spread throughout the globe and include places in South America, the Caribbean, Central America, Polynesia and more.

Travelers heading to those areas are asked to “practice enhanced precautions” to prevent mosquito bites, which is how the virus is spread. Pregnant women are advised to rethink their travel plans because of Zika’s potential impact on their unborn children.

Last week, the Hawaii Department of Health announced a child born with microcephaly — a birth defect marked by a smaller-than-usual head — had previously been infected with Zika. The department said his mother likely contracted the virus when she was living in Brazil last May.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health reports that there have been 3,893 cases of microcephaly in the country since the virus arrived in May. The country used to see fewer than 200 cases per year.

Children with microcephaly can develop seizures, vision problems and have developmental delays, the CDC says, but it only occurs in 2 to 12 out of every 10,000 births in the United States.

Scientists are still trying to find a conclusive link between Zika and microcephaly, which can be caused by several other factors. Last week, Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of CDC’s division of vector-borne diseases, told a news briefing the CDC had “the strongest scientific evidence to date” of a link between Zika and “poor pregnancy outcomes,” though more tests were needed.

Still, the warnings and advice for pregnant women continue. Earlier this week, the CDC issued new guidelines about how healthcare providers in the United States should care for pregnant women who had traveled or were planning to travel to areas where Zika was being transmitted.

Only about 1 in 5 people infected with the virus display any signs of illness, the CDC says, and symptoms are generally mild. They include fever, rash and joint pain, and most people recover within a week. The illness is seldom severe and rarely requires hospitalization.

There haven’t been any reports of people contracting the virus in the United States, the CDC says, though there have been some instances where travelers got bit by infected mosquitos overseas and returned home. The mosquitos that transmit Zika are found in the United States, though Dr. Petersen told the news briefing it’s unclear exactly how or if the virus may spread here.

He told reporters the country has seen improvements in anti-mosquito measures, like using air conditioning and window and door screens, which have helped reduce the spread of other mosquito-borne illnesses, like dengue and malaria, in the past. The CDC encourages all travelers to Zika-prone areas to sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms, as well as wear long clothing and insect repellant, as there is no vaccine or medicine that can currently prevent an infection.

Countries and territories where the CDC has issued travel notices for Zika include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Martin, Samoa, Cape Verde, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

CDC issues guidelines for pregnant women during Zika outbreak

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued guidelines for doctors caring for pregnant women during the Zika outbreak, a mosquito-borne illness linked with microcephaly marked by unusually small head size and brain damage.

The new guidelines urge doctors to ask their pregnant patients about their travel history to areas with Zika virus transmission.

Women who had traveled to regions in which Zika virus is active and who report symptoms during or within two weeks of travel should be offered a test for Zika virus infection. Pregnant women who had no clinical symptoms associated with the infection such be offered an ultrasound to check the fetus’ head size or check for calcium, two signs of microcephaly.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen, editing by G Crosse)

Trader Joe’s recalls cashews amid salmonella concerns

A possible salmonella contamination has prompted Trader Joe’s to recall some cashews.

The grocery store chain issued a statement about the recall late last week, saying that one particular kind of Trader Joe’s Raw Cashew Pieces could be contaminated with the bacteria.

The cashews are marked “BEST BEFORE 07.17.2016TF4,” the company said, and were distributed to stores in 30 states across the country, as well as the District of Columbia.

It wasn’t clear exactly how many packages were included in the recall.

Trader Joe’s said it learned of the possible contamination from a supplier, but didn’t elaborate.

A recall notice on the Food and Drug Administration website says Heritage International (USA) Inc. was voluntarily recalling the cashew lot after routine lab tests found salmonella in it.

The bacteria can cause people to fall ill.

Trader Joe’s said it hasn’t received any reports of anyone getting sick from the cashews, though it has stopped selling all Trader Joe’s Raw Cashew Pieces in its stores pending an investigation.

The grocery chain encourages anyone who bought the cashews marked “BEST BEFORE 07.17.2016TF4” to return them for a full refund or throw them out without eating them.

According to the CDC, salmonella sickens about 1.2 million Americans every year. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, and most people fully recover in 4 to 7 days. In extreme cases, though, infections can spread beyond the intestines and become more severe.

The bacteria leads to about 450 deaths and 19,000 hospitalizations every year, the CDC says. Children, older adults and people with weak immune systems are particularly at risk.

Hawaiian child born with birth defect was infected with Zika virus

A Hawaiian child who was recently born with a rare birth defect called microcephaly had been infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the state Department of Health announced.

Officials made the announcement on Friday, the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated travel warnings for regions where Zika outbreaks are present.

The Zika virus usually only causes a mild illness and most people typically recover in a week, the CDC says, but the virus is collecting global attention because scientists are currently working to see if it is responsible for causing birth defects such as the one found in the Hawaiian child.

According to the CDC, children born with microcephaly have smaller-than-usual heads, and the defect may lead to other issues such as seizures, developmental delays and vision problems.

The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported a significant rise in the birth defect since the virus arrived in May. The country used to see fewer than 200 cases per year, but now has about 3,500.

The Hawaiian baby’s mother was living in Brazil last May, the state Department of Health said in a news release, and likely transmitted the virus to her child while he or she was in the womb.

Microcephaly can be caused by a variety of issues including genetic changes, malnutrition, alcohol exposure and certain kinds of infections, according to the CDC, but it’s still a relatively rare defect and only surfaces in about 2-12 babies out of every 10,000 born in the United States.

“We are saddened by the events that have affected this mother and her newborn,” Hawaii Department of Health State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said in a statement.

Hawaii health officials said neither the mother nor the child are currently at risk of transmitting Zika, nor were they ever at risk of spreading the virus throughout Hawaii. The country has yet to see a locally contracted case of Zika, the CDC has said.

However, the Hawaii Department of Health reported six people have gotten infected while visiting foreign countries and returned to the state.

The CDC on Friday sent out updated travel notices for Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, where Zika is found in local mosquitos, asking travelers — especially pregnant women — to “practice enhanced precautions” to prevent mosquito bites. Previously, the CDC had only been asking travelers to “practice usual precautions.”

There isn’t any vaccine against a Zika infection, the CDC says.

“The virus is spreading fairly rapidly throughout the Americas,” Dr. Lyle Petersen, the director of CDC’s division of vector-borne diseases, told reporters during a Friday evening news briefing, according to a transcript posted on the CDC’s website. “We know in populations that it does affect, a large percentage of the population may be become infected. And because of this growing risk of or growing evidence that there’s a link between Zika virus and microcephaly, which is a very severe and devastating outcome, it was important to warn people as soon as possible.”

Petersen told the news briefing that the CDC recently found its “strongest scientific evidence to date” of a link between Zika and “poor pregnancy outcomes” like microcephaly, but more tests and studies were needed to determine the risks the Zika virus may pose to pregnant women.

Common symptoms of Zika include fever, joint pain and rash, the CDC says. However, Petersen told the news briefing that only 1 in 5 people infected with the virus will display those symptoms.

Petersen also told reporters there have been at least eight United States travelers who tested positive for Zika after traveling overseas in the past 15 months, compared to just 12 who tested positive for the virus between 2007 and 2014. And the CDC is also still receiving samples from people displaying symptoms, so that number could increase as more test results come back.

While the specific kind of mosquito that transmit the virus are present in parts of the United States, Petersen told reporters that improvements in housing construction, air conditioning and mosquito control have helped prevent large outbreaks of other mosquito-borne illnesses.

He told the news briefing it would be difficult to determine exactly how Zika may spread in the coming months.

“I think we’re just going to have to wait to see how this all plays out,” he told reporters. “These viruses certainly can spread in populations for some time. But, again, this is new. This is a dynamic and changing situation. I think it’s really impossible for us to speculate what may happen in three or four or even next month for that matter.”

Separately, Hawaii is dealing with another outbreak of a mosquito-borne illness.

The state Department of Health says there have been 223 cases of dengue fever since Sept. 11. It’s the first locally-acquired outbreak of the disease since 2011.

The World Health Organization says dengue, which can cause fevers, headaches, muscle and joint pains and rashes, has become increasingly common in the past 50 years — spreading to more than 100 countries and placing about half the world’s population at risk of an infection.

CDC closely monitoring emergence of new bird flu strain

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring individuals who may have been exposed to the new strain of bird flu that has been found in a flock of turkeys in Indiana, a CDC health official said on Friday.

Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer at the CDC, said there is no evidence of human infection related to the new bird flu strain known as H7N8, but the agency and local health officials are not taking any chances.

“There’s always the possibility of implications to human health when you see a new flu virus in animals, like we’re seeing now in turkeys,” Jhung told Reuters in an interview.

Jhung said the CDC and local health departments are already implementing a program designed after last year’s large bird flu outbreak in poultry, and will monitor people in close contact with infected birds.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Chris Reese)

California, Minnesota Health Officials Warn of Norovirus Outbreaks

Public health officials in California and Minnesota are warning about norovirus outbreaks, cautioning that the intestinal disease could sicken lots of people in those states this winter.

The California Department of Public Health announced last week that there had been 32 confirmed outbreaks of the disease since October, a number that greatly exceeds the total reported in the same window last year. Hundreds likely fell ill from the disease, officials said.

In Minnesota, the state Department of Health cautioned that the arrival of a new strain of the disease could cause some additional norovirus illnesses this winter. The department said it has investigated at least 20 outbreaks of the GII.17 Kawasaki strain since September. The strain is the same one that spurred many outbreaks in Asia last winter, officials said in a news release.

“Every few years, a new strain of norovirus emerges and causes many illnesses,” Amy Saupe, a foodborne disease epidemiologist with the department, said in a statement. “We don’t know yet if this new strain will lead to an increase in the number of outbreaks reported, but it could.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus is the top cause of stomach flu in the United States. The highly contagious virus sickens between 19 million and 21 million people, hospitalizes 56,000 to 71,000 and kills between 570 and 800 every year. Common symptoms include fever, diarrhea and vomiting. Most people recover within 1 to 3 days.

People get norovirus from eating tainted food or touching contaminated surfaces, making it relatively easy for the disease to spread in places like schools, daycares and nursing homes.

The Boston Globe reported a sick employee came to a Chipotle restaurant in the city earlier this month and 136 people — including some Boston College students — fell ill. There were some initial fears that outbreak was linked to an E. Coli outbreak at Chipotle restaurants in nine states, but the paper reported health officials ultimately determined that norovirus was at fault.

The CDC and other public health officials say proper disinfection, hand hygiene and food-handling techniques are vitally important to help prevent norovirus from spreading.

“One of the most important things you can do to avoid norovirus and other illnesses this holiday season is to wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds,” Dr. Karen Smith, the director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “This is especially important after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food. Hand sanitizers are not effective against norovirus.”

Hawaii Reports Additional Cases of Dengue Fever

The number of people infected with dengue fever in Hawaii is climbing, officials said Monday.

The Hawaii Department of Health reported that it was investigating 167 total cases of the mosquito-borne illness, which can lead to fatal consequences in extreme cases. There were 122 confirmed dengue cases as of Dec. 2, signifying 45 additional infections in about three weeks.

State health officials said only three of the 167 cases are currently infectious. The other people got sick between Sept. 11 and Dec. 10, so they are no longer at risk of transmitting the disease.

The health department also reported there were 659 additional potential dengue infections that had been ruled out, either through test results or the illnesses failing to meet the case criteria.

Dengue isn’t endemic (regularly found) in Hawaii, though health officials said it can occasionally be brought in from travelers who got infected in endemic regions. But this latest outbreak on the Big Island is unique because it’s the first cluster of locally acquired cases since 2011, when Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) records indicate five people got sick in Oahu.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an arm of the United Nations, dengue is transmitted when an infected mosquito bites a human. The infection generates a flu-like illness — from which most people usually recover within a week — though it sometimes progresses to severe dengue. In those instances, people can suffer organ impairment and severe bleeding.

The WHO estimates severe dengue hospitalizes about 500,000 people per year, and about 2.5 percent of them die. Dengue is much more common, with some estimates indicating as many as 136 million people falling ill every year, but non-severe cases of the disease are rarely ever fatal. Symptoms can include severe headaches, swollen glands, joint and muscle pain and a high fever.

The Hawaii outbreak reflects a global trend in which dengue is spreading to new locales.

The WHO reports the disease was traditionally found in the tropics and subtropics, but it’s now endemic in more than 100 countries and about half the world’s population is at risk of infection. Still, early detection and access to good medical care keeps the mortality rate below 1 percent. Without those, the WHO says severe dengue can be fatal in more than 20 percent of cases.

Hawaii health officials say it’s still safe to visit the island. The department encourages travelers to use insect repellant and wear long sleeves and pants to help prevent mosquitos from biting.