Monday, January 29, 2018

Tips to Keep Your Super Bowl Party’s Meal Safe

Author: David J. Holcombe, M.D., M.S.A., Regional Medical Director, Region 6 (Alexandria Region)

It’s almost time for the Super Bowl, and like all big events, that means it’s time for a party. And where there’s a party, there’s plenty of food. And since most of us don’t serve large meals often, there’s a greater potential for food contamination. The Louisiana Department of Health warns it’s important to be wary of food borne illnesses and take precautions to keep yourself and all of your party-goers healthy this Super Bowl Sunday.

Food borne illnesses are frequent, affecting well over 48 million people in the U.S. each year. Such illnesses are also a significant cause of sickness and result in over 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually as reported by the CDC. The older and sicker (or younger) the patient, the more likely they are to have a tragic outcome.

In addition to Salmonella, other illnesses related to food include E.coli, Shigella, Hepatitis A, Listeria and Norovirus. These are all common causes of food poisoning, sickening millions of people annually in the U.S.

Food borne illnesses are caused by a great number of agents including viruses, bacteria, vibrios and others. Sometimes it is a situation where the food itself contains the toxins, while at other times the illness is caused the growth of the bacteria (such as Salmonella) within an infected person. In any case, the symptoms usually include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, sometimes explosive and even bloody.

Protect Yourself
As you prepare your Super Bowl meal, the goal is to keep germs from finding their way into your food. To keep your foods safe during preparation and as you serve items, put these tips in your playbook. This will ensure that a case of food poisoning doesn’t put a damper on your party.
  • Don’t leave food in a hot car.
  • Keep your kitchen clean, especially cutting boards, sponges and knives.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is 40 degrees and your freezer is zero.
  • Cook red meat to 160 and poultry to 180 degrees F.
  • Never leave perishable foods out of the refrigerator for more than TWO HOURS.
  • Keep cold party foods on ice.
  • Heat leftovers to 165 degrees and keep them above 140 F.
  • Put hot foods into small units for rapid cooling.
  • If it looks strange or smells strange, throw it out.
  • Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation.

The Top 10 Causes of Food Poisoning
Viruses, especially noroviruses, cause about 63 percent of all cases.  Noroviruses are the culprits in the infamous cruise ship outbreaks of diarrhea and are also responsible for the periodic closures of some Louisiana oyster beds. It requires very few viruses to cause an infection and the transmission potential is staggering, often affected an entire cruise ship in a matter of days. Noroviruses can also spread through an entire nursing home or other institution in a very short time.

Next is Salmonella, causing about 20,500 infections occurring every year in Louisiana with nearly all caused by food-borne transmission. Salmonella, like Escherichia coli, Shigella, Listeria and Campylobacter (all also among the top 10 culprits), invades the intestinal wall and causes significant fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Symptoms are preceded by an incubation period lasting anywhere between six hours to three days, with symptoms lasting up to week. Poultry products (including the annual holiday turkey) are particular culprits since up to 90 percent of chicken carcasses are contaminated with Campylobacter and around 20 percent with Salmonella and Listeria. Turkeys and chickens share similar germs (as do some reptiles).

Other agents include Clostridium perfringens (as was identified in the recent Louisiana incident), Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus. All three of these produce toxins, the former after being ingested and the latter two prior to being ingested. In other words, with Staph and Bacillus, the poison is already in the food before you take a bite, while Clostridium perfringens produces it in your gut. In any case, victims get sick in a few hours after eating the food, often prepared and stored under improper conditions for that Super Bowl shindig, but usually get better within a few days.

Rounding out the top 10 are Vibrio parahaemolyticus and its close cousin, Vibrio vulnificus, both saltwater organisms. Vibrio Parahaemolyticus (causing about 45,000 cases a year) is often associated with partially cooked shrimp, and can cause an unpleasant episode of diarrhea.

Vibrio vulnificus is found in raw oysters, another holiday favorite and causes about 100 cases a year. While most people can eat oysters with relative impunity, those with severe liver disease run a life threatening risk with Vibrio vulnificus.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Louisiana Dept. of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee: Sen. Sharon Hewitt prescribes wrong approach to fixing Medicaid

Author: Dr. Rebekah Gee, MD, MPH, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health

Gov. John Bel. Edwards and I have long believed in smart, innovative policies that engage Medicaid recipients in their communities, either through job opportunities, volunteering or skill improvement and education. We believe that a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. I know business leaders agree. Once we improve people’s health, we can better expect them to engage in their communities in a productive manner.

Recently, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt offered suggestions for the state’s Medicaid expansion. Unfortunately, despite her admirable interest in evidence-based policy, she prescribes the wrong approach to inspiring work opportunities for the people of Louisiana.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

20 Louisiana water systems receive CDC award for water fluordiation

Author: Melissa Martin, director of Well-Ahead Louisiana

Well-Ahead Louisiana, an initiative of the Louisiana Department of Health, is pleased to announce that the following water systems have made a commitment to improving the oral health of Louisianans, and have been awarded the 2016 Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This award recognizes communities that have achieved excellence in community water fluoridation and have shown a commitment to high levels of public water system operator care and accomplishment.

For 2016, the Water Fluoridation Reporting System (WFRS) WFRS reported a total of 1,360 public water systems in 29 states receiving this award in November 2017, including 20 systems in Louisiana.

Monday, January 22, 2018

If you have the flu, get the right care

Call your doctor before going to an emergency room

Author: Parham Jaberi, MD, Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health Office of Public Health

It is always important to access the appropriate level of care for illness or injury.  With Louisiana, along with almost all other states, having an unusually high number of flu cases, knowing where to go for the right care is vitally important.

Your choices are your doctor’s office or a community clinic, an urgent care center, or a hospital emergency room.  Your goal is to get well as quick as possible.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Louisiana Reports Widespread Flu Activity throughout the State; Department of Health Offers Tips to Minimize the Spread of the Flu

Author: Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer, Louisiana Department of Health

Louisiana is seeing widespread and early flu activity. According to the CDC, Louisiana is among the states with the highest confirmed illness through symptoms and laboratory surveillance.  

In more severe seasons, the flu causes approximately 700 deaths and nearly 8,000 hospitalizations each year. In Louisiana and we are already on track to meet and possibly exceed these statistics for the current flu season.

The Louisiana Department of Health offers these reminders to help keep people from spreading the flu: