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Outbreaks galore: E. coli, Crypto, Salmonella, & Meningitis

The Executive Briefing - Friday, September 1st

Health News:

  • Five people have been hospitalized in an E. coli outbreak at the University of Arkansas. (AP)
  • A major bacterial meningitis outbreak throughout the state of Virginia is up to 27 cases and 5 deaths. (VDH)
  • Wisconsin courts ruled that disclosing an employee’s COVID status did not violate healthcare privacy laws. (SHRM)
  • Sweden and Canada have reported their first BA.2.86 cases, and New York City has wastewater positives for the new variant. (CIDRAP)
  • J&J slashed the price of its treatment for drug-resistant TB for low and middle-income countries. (STAT)
  • A new study estimates that there were 1.4 million deaths after China lifted its ‘zero COVID’ policy. (CIDRAP)
  • The UK is starting its fall vaccination program early this year in light of the BA.2.86 variant and rising case counts. (Reuters)
  • The FDA is advising not to sell mussels from East River Shellfish, Inc. which were sold to retailers in NY, IL, and MA and may be contaminated with E. coli and Salmonella. (FDA)
  • An outbreak of 8 cases of Salmonella Newport is being investigated by the FDA with no identified source yet. (FDA)
  • An 11-case outbreak of cryptosporidiosis is being investigated by the MN Dept of Health and the FDA, though the outbreak appears to be over already. (FDA)
  • 16 people have died from Legionnaires’ disease in Poland near the Ukraine border after Legionella bacteria were found in the public water supply. (AP)
  • The ice cream recall related to Listeria contamination has expanded to all Ice Cream House brand products, as well as Real Kosher Ice Cream, Inc. (FDA)
  • COVID hotspots in the US include multiple counties in Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, and Nebraska. (US News)

Mental Health & Substance Use News:

  • Naloxone (Narcan) will be available over the counter with a suggested retail price of $45 by early September in major pharmacies including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Walmart. (USA Today)
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts will cover over-the-counter naloxone for reversing overdoses. Other insurers have yet to weigh in. (STAT)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or need help, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions

We are seeing a lot more COVID positives this week. Is it the new Pirola variant that has 36 mutations?

COVID hospitalizations are continuing to rise across the US. It’s hard to tell which variant is causing the rise because we’ve so drastically reduced virus surveillance in the US after the public health emergency ended. At this point, the best data we have is hospitalization rates, which are up - but probably not caused by the Pirola variant (aka BA.2.86). Whether the new variant is causing an increase in cases is another story. It doesn’t seem to be the dominant variant in the US yet, but Pirola is spreading quickly. Genetically similar variants have been found from the US to Switzerland to Thailand, including in people who hadn’t traveled recently, which indicates that there’s local transmission. We’re in a period of waiting to see just how much Pirola will spread, and it’s too soon to tell if it’s related to the increase in cases we’re seeing. The start of school usually brings a rise in respiratory illnesses - flu, COVID, RSV, and common colds included - so we’ll be curious to see just how high cases are in a few weeks.
Sources: WSJ, ABC

It seems like there’s lots more TB out there right now. What’s going on?

Tuberculosis (TB) is on the rise in the US. The CDC estimates that up to 13 million people are living with latent TB infection, and there were 8,300 new TB cases reported last year. While overall TB cases went way down during the first year of the pandemic, they’re returning to pre-pandemic levels and we’re seeing it across our client base with regularity. Particularly concerning is that cases have risen sharply among kids under four, which usually result from recent transmission (versus activation of latent TB infection that they’ve had for a long time, which is more common in adult cases). TB is more common in Latino, Black, and Asian people, and more than 7 out of every 10 cases is in someone who was born outside of the US. These higher-risk populations closely reflect the foodservice industry’s workers, so it’s important to keep employees informed (in their spoken language) about the symptoms and risk of TB. For more info in English and Spanish, check out the CDC’s free, printable public-facing resources here.
Source: CDC

We’re going to bite the bullet and order some more masks. What type should we get?

As we prep for back-to-school illnesses and with the possibility of a major variant-fueled surge, some of our clients are choosing to stock back up on masks and even tests to have on hand in the event of an outbreak. Any N95, KN95, or KF94 work well and filter out more than 94% of particles when they’re worn properly (which means the metal nosepiece is pinched to match the shape of your nose and the mask isn’t too loose). Shelling out for masks that your employees find more comfortable makes a difference - they do nothing if employees take them off or wear them below their noses. It can be helpful to have a variety of types to account for different personal preferences and to increase the chances that people wear them properly.
Source: NYT

If I wear a mask at the airport, does it actually protect me if other people aren’t wearing them?

One-way masking really does work. It doesn’t work nearly as well as when everyone masks, of course, but it can seriously reduce your own risk of getting infected with COVID if you are in close contact with someone infectious. In one model, those with loose-fitting surgical masks had a 90% chance of infection within 30 minutes of being in close contact with someone sick who was unmasked. When they wore N95s, that dropped down to a 20% chance over a full hour. These are all estimates (it’s really hard to justify getting people sick with COVID to study this), but there is lots and lots and lots of evidence that masks protect the individual wearer. They’re not perfect, but they do lower your risk, especially if they fit well and you don’t remove them when in close contact with someone who might be sick.
Sources: NPR, PNAS, JATM, Insider, CDC

Best Read:  

Wait, Is That Rapid Test Really Expired? - NY Times

Note: We’ll be skipping the Executive Briefing on Tuesday due to the holiday weekend, and will be back next Friday. If any urgent situations come up, we’ll send push alerts in the app!

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.