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  • TamaraRitchie 10:34 am on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ebola, , foodborne illness, , reservoir   

    Should we add Ebola to the List of Foodborne Pathogens? 

    In developed countries the threat of contracting Ebola from food sources is null, but in areas of Africa it is a real threat. Throughout late 2014 and early 2015, Ebola was widely publicized as the virus moved from Africa to the United States although Ebola has been a constant problem in Africa for years. 


    Ebola Virus

    Ebola is a virus that is generally spread by direct contact with body fluids or blood of an infected person, but in Africa it may also be spread while consuming, hunting or preparing Bushmeat. Bushmeat is an umbrella term that groups together meat from wild animals such as bats, antelope, rats, monkeys and other nonhuman primates.The main reservoir of the virus appears to be fruit bats. It is either through the consumption of fruit bats, or cross contamination between fruit bat droppings and other bushmeat animals that causes Ebola to be transmitted through food.

    Bushmeats are main sources of food for some and often seen a treat for others at markets and roadside stands. These types of meats are usually dried, salted or smoked in the open African heat alongside other butchered animals. This is a breeding ground for other bacteria and cross contamination can easily occur with other bacteria of concern such as E. Coli and Salmonella. The consequences of Ebola are high, one strain tied back to fruit bats in the Congo area found that 40% of infected patients died. Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever, headaches and can result in death. 

    Ebola can be destroyed by heating to 60 degree Celsius for 60 minutes or at higher temperatures of 72-80 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes according to the CDC. While heating Ebola has been found to inactivate and destroy the virus there is still the issue of cross contamination, as seen in the following picture the spaces used to cook and prepare the meat appear unhygienic and less than ideal. It is also difficult to know if the meats have been cooked to the proper temperatures as most would not have access to thermometers. The ones that are at highest risk of contracting the virus from animals are those who are hunting and gathering these animals as many are bitten or scratched or come in contact with blood during these processes.


    Varying smoked bushmeats at a market

    The likelihood of contracting the disease from human contact is much higher than from bushmeats. Hundreds of thousands of varying types of bushmeat are consumed annually throughout Africa and this will likely continue as it is a source of nutrition and part of their culture. It is recommended that steps be taken while hunting and gathering to reduce infection such as avoiding blood and fluids from animals, wearing gloves, not consuming predeceased animals and keeping raw foods away from cooked. These steps will not eradicate all cases of Ebola in Africa but it may help decrease the amount of outbreaks.

    If you would like to learn more please watch the video below.



    DRC: Bushmeat blamed for Ebola outbreak. (2012, August 23). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.irinnews.org/report/96160/drc-bushmeat-blamed-for-ebola-outbreak

    Hogenboom, M. (2014, October 19). Ebola: Is bushmeat behind the outbreak? – BBC News. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/news/health-29604204

    Information on the Survivability of the Ebola Virus in Medical Waste. (2015, February 12). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/healthcare-us/cleaning/ebola-virus-survivability.html

    MacNeil, A. (2010, December 1). Proportion of Deaths and Clinical Features in Bundibugyo Ebola Virus Infection, Uganda – Volume 16, Number 12-December 2010 – Emerging Infectious Disease journal – CDC. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/12/10-0627_article


    • kathykim 4:13 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Tamara, I did not expect that ebola would be termed as a food-borne pathogen, but thinking about it, it is!. The main source of disease infection I heard from news was that Africans eat raw bat meats and drink their blood, and this is their cultural practice of diet. Also, when people die of ebola, Africans contact with the dead body which is also a part of their funeral culture.. I think such cultural factors have been risk factors for the transmission of ebola. I wonder though, why ebola has occured just recently, when such cultural practices were still done in the past.

    • laurenrappaport 1:28 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Its interesting to hear that the original source of Ebola is from animals. Over the past year or so, all we’ve been hearing about in the news is how infectious it is between humans ignoring the fact that the initial contamination is from something we may consume. Although these types of foods are not commonly consumed here in North America, with all the travel and trade it has become of major concern. Its funny that we have only recently started hearing about Ebola issues when this has been going on in Africa for many years. However, only recently when people in North America and Europe have become infected is when this issue has been brought to the news.

    • wen liao 3:53 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is an interesting article. This term I am taking a virology course and currently we are discussing about the Ebola virus (EBOV). Relating to this article, the 2014 EBOV epidemic is actually initiated due to the consumption of bats, as bats are asymptomatic of EBOV. Fortunately for us, vaccines are available now for EBOV (and it was initially designed by the National Microbiology Lab of Canada in Winnipeg. YEAHHHH). This vaccine is under review now and it has shown great efficacy against EBOV infection. Furthermore, this vaccine can be mass produced by engineering tobacco plants so that it can be produced on site in African.
      Personally, I do not think EBOV should be considered as a foodborne pathogen. Although the infection of native African population by EBOV is due to the consumption of bushmeat, bushmeat is not a common source of food for them. They eat it because they do not have other food choices.

    • angel519 5:15 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is interesting to know that Ebola is originated from animal source. Places like Africa where most people live in poverty and food supply is limited, they have no choice but to eat Bushmeat which contains microbes or viruses that have never been encountered by the human population. Even though the source of the virus is identified, becasue of poverty and the brutal environment it is difficult to stop the people from hunting other bushmeat. And this might causes another outbreak of foodborne diease in the future due to the consumption of asymptomatic bushmeat.

    • CindyDai 6:34 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I was quite shocked to know Ebola can be considered as food pathogens. The horrifying Ebola outbreaks in Africa and America earlier this year did attract a lot of public attention, and not many news mentioned how to prevent Ebola at household level. It is good to know that Ebola can be destroyed by heating, which means it shares the same food safety practice with many other foodborne pathogens. We should always be prepared to fight with foodborne pathogens and be aware of the horrible consequence of incorrect food handling.

    • Stephanie Chen 7:28 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As Ebola is generally known to spread through direct contact with infected blood and body fluids, it is quite interesting that it can be regarded as a food-borne pathogen. Through the image and the video, it can really be seen that there is immense potential for contamination through the various steps of preparation, cooking, and consumption of bushmeats. While the virus can be eliminated through heat processing of the food, it may be still be a great challenge to regulate hunting and gathering practices to reduce risk of outbreaks.

    • EmilyLi 5:01 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a very interesting post. It change the mainstream view that Ebola virus is transmitted by human infected blood and body fluid. The fact that the Ebola virus can be destroyed by heat is a wonderful fact to know and hopefully this fact would be helpful in preparing the bushmeats. However, in area such as Africa there may not be enough resources to implement regulations that the hunters, gathers, and street vendors to follow to reduce and prevent the outbreaks.

    • Carissa Li 12:49 am on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Ebola as a foodborne pathogen really caught my eyes to this post! I never thought it could be transmitted through food since the news only emphasize on direct contact with blood. The fact that how they are selling the bushmeats in the market of course is the main reason for cross contamination but i think the utensils they use to prepare the meat is also one of the reasons for cross contamination. I think the reason why Ebola is that savage is also due to people consuming bushmeats on a daily basis. In this case, Ebola can be spread widely in Africa.

    • mustafa akhtar 12:15 am on December 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I remember back in 2014 when we first heard about the ebola outbreak, and this catalysed the kicking in of many survellience agencies across the globe. Your view is that the cultural practises in Africa may help spread Ebola, but other countries that don’t sell bush meet or don’t have customary funeral practises, still seem to have been concerned for the spread of outbreak. Is ebola as viable outside Africa?

  • ColleenChong 10:12 pm on November 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cryptosporidium, , , foodborne illness, ,   

    Warning: Water supply contaminated with the parasite Cryptosporidium 

    Most North Americans and Europeans consume fresh tap water daily without any concern. These developed countries have advance filter systems, implemented chlorine treatments and/or radiation treatments; such as ultraviolet light to kill pathogens. Since the water supply is treated many would believe the source is safe. Is that always true?


    This past August the water supply of several Lancashire districts in England (Blackpool, Preston, Chorley, Fylde, Wyre and South Ribble) was contaminated with an infectious parasite, Cryptosporidium. About 300,000 Lancashire households were put on alert. This parasite causes the disease cryptosporidiosis, which includes symptoms stomach cramping, dehydration, vomiting, nausea, and weight-loss. The most common symptom is watery diarrhea. These symptoms may appear after 2 days and last up to 30 days after infection. Chronic or fatal illness maybe develop in susceptible population; which includes immunocompromised, young children, and the elderly.

    This parasite is a concern when it comes to the consumption of tap water because it is extremely resistant to chlorine, therefore; the chlorinated treatments have little effect on the parasite. The water company United Utilities advised everyone to boil their water before consumption.

    Due this parasitic discovery panic was all over. A local mentioned, “This water thing in Blackpool is a nightmare just went to the corner shop and they were on the last few bottles!” Major supermarkets were running short bottled water since “nobody can drink the water in Blackpool because it’s contaminated and now there’s no water left in any shops.” With the high demand of water and the short supply, people were selling water on the internet for ridiculously high prices.

    Water shortage in Supermarkets

    United Utilises reassured the public that they were monitoring Cryptosporidium levels carefully through continuous testing. Only trace amounts remain in the source after the first week of August, United Utilities issued boiled water notice until mid-August.

    This is a rare occurrence. In 2005 an outbreak of cryptosporidium affected 231people in North Wales and the Cymrus Welsh Water was fined £60,000 and spent another £70,000 to compensate the affected individuals. As for the cryptosporidium contamination from August there were no confirm cases of sickness. An outbreak was avoided due to the quick action United Utilities took.

    Here’s a Brief video for your interest!

    Sources of contamination (fecal-oral route):
    • Animal waste
    • Water sources

    • Boil water
    • Proper hygiene
    • Wash hands

    • No specific drug to kill organism
    • diarrheal medicine may help slow down diarrhea
    • Consume lots of water

    What is your opinion on drinking tap water? Do you boil or treat your water?


    • yichen25 12:46 am on November 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Growing up in Malaysia where we don’t have the privilege to drinkable tap water, it has been a practice for us to boil our water before drinking. Even after coming to Canada, I still continue to do so. I personally think that even with the advanced filtering systems and treatments, there is still the possibility of post-treatment contamination as the pipes that carried the water to household might be contaminated. Therefore, I strongly believe that boiling yr water before drinking is the best way to avoid being contracted with any unwanted diseases.

    • MarinaMoon 3:00 am on November 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Similar to Yichen, back in Korea we always boiled our water before drinking because the tap water was not safe to drink. However, for me, after coming to Canada, I adapted a habit of drinking from tap water especially since I started living by myself. I never doubted that there could be a contamination in something that I consume everyday, but now I realized that I should be more concerned about what I consume and although it is still safe in Canada, to boil the water before drinking. It’s scary how there seems to be increase in pathogens that are resistant to so many sanitation practices. This particular pathogen only cause mild symptoms which is relieving, but I wonder what would happen when something more resistant and more pathogenic appear in food product or water that we consume everyday. In the future, there could be pathogens that arise which is resistant to chlorine and heat, which would further complicate the prevention process.

    • catherine wong 10:42 pm on November 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This was an extremely interesting article. At home I always boil my water before drinking it because I’ve heard about tap water being unsafe to drink sometimes. However when I’m out in the public and didn’t bring enough boiled water from home, I do sometimes drink tap water. I also agreed with Yichen that full trust cannot be placed in advanced filter systems and treatments due to the possibility of post-treatment contamination and there could always be the chance of these systems failing. Sometimes just a flaw in the system could cause great problems and it was just nice to know that there were no confirm cases of sickness for this occurrence. After reading this article, I think I might refrain from tap water even if I’m a little thirsty because it doesn’t seem to be worth the risk of getting sick.

    • elaine chan 3:01 pm on November 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Definitely an interesting article! Water intake is an essential element for human survival, so with an incident like this occurring, it is no surprise that it has caused a panic across the region. I feel rather grateful that I’m living in an area where water filtration systems are present, and the water is safe for consumption once it’s deposited from our taps. However, like Yichen mentioned, at times, there can be flaws in the water filter and treatment systems. Growing up, my family has always had the practice of boiling the water from our tap prior to consumption. It has become a common practice for myself as well , and it doesn’t seem to be a bad idea implement this extra step for safety measures.

    • RainShen 4:23 pm on November 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The safety of drinking water was a big problem in the China before I came the Canada. My family definitely would boil the tape water before drink to make sure all the pathogens have been killed and the water is safe to consume. I know some households in China they do have their own water filter system at home for filtering and de-contaminating their drink water, since the tap water would not only contains some pathogens, but also some heavy metal ions. Therefore, wherever I go, I will boil the tap water if I wanna drink it. Even through the water treatment system here in Canada is very efficient, it may still get contaminated after the treatment before consumed by human.

    • amreenj 1:39 pm on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article! It is so scary to think that this contamination of drinking water occurred despite the precautionary measures in place to prevent such things from occurring. Having lived in Vancouver all my life, I hadn’t though about this ever occurring. However, I have travelled to a number of countries in which the problem of contaminated drinking water does frequently occur. I think that the quick action taken by the water company prevented a major outbreak of this chronic/ fatal disease. I think that this case serves as a reminder that we must still be aware of the potential for contamination in “safe” drinking water and that water companies should continue to ensure that their water is in fact properly sterilized.

    • JorgeMadrigalPons 10:57 pm on November 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In Mexico, there is also big issues with drinking tap water, since it is not treated for drinking purposes. I almost never drink tap water in my country. Mostly, people buy bottled water for consumption, but many small local food businesses do not. I have heard of many outbreaks caused by the usage of tap water by ice-cream shops, taco shops, etc, (mainly food street). I think that it would be of great benefit to the health of Mexicans, if the gouverment implemented advanced water treatment systems.

    • dgozali 1:28 am on November 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article! Ive always been boiling my water before I came to canada but changed my routine when i started living here. I think this is a step that is often overlooked in countries where tap water is drinkable, yet it is probably the most crucial step in preventing outbreaks because water is needed by everyone for drinking and also for washing other foods. If the water has been contaminated, it can go on to cross contaminate fruits and vegetables that are washed with it.

    • Michelle Ebtia 11:13 am on November 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I was initially surprised to learn that there are no effective treatments for patients infected with this parasite! So I did a quick research and found out that there is a moderately effective drug called nitazoxanide available for treatment. However more research needs to be done to come up with an effective option, which according to Miyamoto and Eckmann (2015), has not occurred due to insufficient funding, mainly because historically, this problem has only existed in developing countries. Since the case reported in this blog has happened in England, one might wonder if the research would now gain some momentum.

      Work Cited:
      Eckmann, L. (2015). Drug development against the major diarrhea-causing parasites of the small intestine, Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6, 1208.

    • Mandy Tam 9:23 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think chlorine is the major hurdle that most countries have in their water to eliminate pathogen. Knowing that this might not work 100%, I think this is more scarier than Lauren’s post. I think more and more I read the blogs, I really need to reconsider my own eating habits. Maybe I should start boiling my water before consumption.

      Anyhow, I am surprised how little researches have been done on such matter after reading Michelle comment. Maybe more surveillance and research should be done in such matter as a lot of people drink water from the tab.

    • teewong 6:43 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is very interesting, especially when both occurrence happened verily close to each other. It makes me wonder if the water companies are taking every precaution to detect these sort of contaminations before it even affects the water. Also, I read from your prevention section that washing hands will help, but I was wondering with what water do we wash hands with when the tap source is contaminated already?
      This is a frightening problem to me since I live in Vancouver and we drink out of the tap 80% of the time when we visit restaurants. This could be a potential hazard for many of us if it were to happen in Vancouver as well! I can also see that companies that make bottled water will use this chance to profit from people as it would cause shortages on bottled water supplies when such thing happens.

    • MichelleLui 9:53 pm on December 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article! There are so many factors that could contaminate the city water, such as backflow, old pipes and etc.. Preventative measures such as putting in a reverse osmosis system and boiling water are recommended. I have a reverse osmosis system which works for me.

  • Silvia Low 4:34 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , foodborne illness, ,   

    Europe: Salmonella Stanley Strikes Again! Find out why S. Stanley keeps refusing to back down. 

    SalmonellaTurkeys Stanley, as friendly as this particular strain of salmonella may sound, is no friend to the European member states at all. S.Stanley may as well be a multi-national celebrity as it has been making headlines across Europe for various food-borne outbreaks since 2011.

    After a string of salmonella outbreaks that affected 7 European states and more than 400 patients, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and other authorities finally initiated investigations on the source of the culprit strain in 2012. Evidence from the investigations led to a suggested source of turkey meat and without slowing down, the notorious S.Stanley continued to make various headlines up until 2014. Now, S.Stanley has re-emerged in clusters throughout 2015 and is taking over a new wave of Austrian turkey supply.

    Between 1 January and 8 October 2015, 141 cases of non-travel related infection with S. Stanley were identified in eight of the nine Austrian provinces. At least 36 of these cases have been traced back to turkey kebabs made with turkey meat supplied by a single retailer located in Slovakia. More trace back by National authorities indicate that the Slovakian retailer sources its turkey meat from a facility in Hungary. This same facility was linked to a S.Stanley cluster back in 2014. Furthermore, recent investigations using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) molecular typing indicate that the 2015 salmonella isolates have the same unique pattern as S.Stanley from the 2011 to 2014 outbreaks.

    So what is the secret to S.Stanley’s everlasting presence?

    Antimicrobial Resistance.

    Since the early 1990s, antimicrobial resistant salmonella strains have emerged and become serious public health concerns. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when pathogenic cases are routinely treated with antimicrobial therapy but result in not eliminating the more resistant bacteria strains. The subsequent result is resistant bacteria strains reproducing, and the antimicrobial treatment becoming ineffective.

    The same strain of Salmonella Stanley has consistently been recognized from 2011-2014 due to its pattern of resistance to nalidixic acid antibiotics. That was up until now, where the 2015 strain of S.Stanley has been identified as having low-level resistance to ciprofloxacin in addition to nalidixic acid antibiotics.

    To prevent further cases of antimicrobial resistance cases, the single most important action is to change the way antibiotics are used. Mostly, the use of antibiotics in people and animals are unnecessary especially in mild cases of infection. Treatment guidelines should be reviewed regularly while considering bacterial resistance patterns.

    Here are some simple tips to prevent Salmonella from spreading in your home:

    • Clean surfaces regularly and wash your hands often especially after coming into contact with animals and animal products.
    • Separate raw and cooked, ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination.
    • Cook food to the right temperature. Checking the colour and texture of meat is not enough to ensure it is safe. Instead, use a food thermometer to check internal food temperatures.
    • Refrigerate foods below 4°C. Germs can grow in many foods within 2 hours and even quicker during the summer.


    Works Cited

    CDC. (2014). Antibiotic Resistance and Food Safety. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/antibiotic-resistance.html

    CDC. (2015). About Antimicrobial Resistance. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html

    ECDC. (2015). CDTR Week 41, 4-10 October 2015. . COMMUNICABLE DISEASE THREATS REPORT. Available at: http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/communicable-disease-threats-report-10-oct-2015.pdf

    Whitworth, J. (13 October 2015). New Cases reported in multi-year, multi-country Salmonella outbreak. Food Quality News. Available at: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Outbreaks/Turkey-production-chain-at-centre-of-Salmonella-concerns

    WHO. (2013). Salmonella (non-typhoidal). Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs139/en/

    WHO. (2015). Antimicrobial resistance. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/

    • ayra casuga 9:57 am on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting and intriguing blog! I found it very interesting to see recent real-world cases of antimicrobial resistance playing a large role in the prevalence of food-borne illnesses. I was surprised that the same strain managed to make its way to Australia considering that the outbreaks mostly occurred in Europe. Especially since these Australian outbreaks were non-travel related. Perhaps it was though some sort of international trade or shipment of these products. After reading this blog, I was wondering if the EU are going to add an extra antimicrobial (ciprofloxacin) into their food supply since S. Stanley is resistant to nalidixic acid? If so, wouldn’t that cause an emergence of another, possibly more infective, strain of Salmonella that would be resistant to the new antimicrobial?

    • EmilyChow 7:06 pm on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Nice post! It’s interesting to see that just one strain of salmonella could have such a lasting impact in one particular part of Europe. Since it’s emergence in 2011, it’s amazing how S. stanley had continuously been responsible for so many outbreaks. Because the last outbreak was specific to one place, Austria, and also to one source, turkey, it makes me wonder how the food safety regulations are implemented in Europe. Over 9 months in 2015 is quite a period of long time. Are the warnings and regulations the same in Europe as they are here? Perhaps this continuous emergence of salmonella is not only attributed to antimicrobial resistance but also due to how the meat is handled?

    • Michelle Ebtia 11:59 pm on November 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very well written, nicely organized blog!
      As mentioned in the report, the single most important factor that needs to be taken into account while discussing antibiotic (AB) resistance is its use in animals and people. However, as more than 80% of all AB used in the US are fed to farm animals (Levy et al. 1976), the most effective way of controlling the emergence of AB resistant strains of pathogens can be limiting their use in animal farming.
      A very promising corrective measure that has taken place recently, is FDA’s initiative in banning/limiting the use of such drugs as growth promoters in farming practices. According to Kuehn (2014), AB’s that are currently prescribed for treating bacterial infections in humans, can no longer be administered to animals, without the supervision of veterinarians, and the manufacturers of the drug are also required to mention in their labeling that the use of their product as growth enhancer is illegal. I really hope this initiative would help resolve the issue of AB resistance!

      Works Cited:

      Kuehn, B. M. (2014). FDA moves to curb antibiotic use in livestock. JAMA, 311(4), 347-348.

      Levy, S. B., FitzGerald, G. B., & Macone, A. B. (1976). Changes in intestinal flora of farm personnel after introduction of a tetracycline-supplemented feed on a farm. New England Journal of Medicine, 295(11), 583-588.

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