Food safety groups unveil outbreak response guidance

first_imgJul 15, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – A national consortium of groups that have a stake in managing foodborne illness outbreaks today released guidelines for outbreak response, a document that includes model practices for each investigation stage, giving local and state officials a baseline for assessing their current procedures. However, he said public officials’ willingness to implement the model practices will be the factor that improves the nation’s overall outbreak response. “As noted in the forward, it will only be as effective as our commitment to turn the guidelines into action,” he said. He said the CIFOR guidelines also give local and state officials a solid framework for achieving federal standards that address outbreak response. In a nutshell, the guidance promotes faster and better response methods that revolve around better communication and more uniform reporting between local and state officials, he said. For example, surveillance systems and incident logs should be compiled in a manner that’s easily accessible to other agencies. “This truly would identify patterns that aren’t being identified now,” Holmes said. Scott E. Holmes, manager of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department’s environmental public health division in Lincoln, Neb., told CIDRAP News that it took 2 years to develop the guidelines, which underwent rounds of extensive review and modification. Holmes is NACCHO’s representative on CIFOR. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) today praised the new CIFOR guidelines. Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, said in an HHS statement that was e-mailed to journalists that improving food safety is one of President Obama’s top priorities. In the overview section, the authors state that the guidelines are meant to be flexible and include a range of approaches with the rationale for each of them. For example, the guidance details the role of the Incident Command System (ICS), but acknowledges that not all agencies use this system. See also: Applying the guidelines isn’t going to be a major cost for local and state departments, he predicted. “It’s more a matter of doing the actions correctly,” he said, adding that adopting a model practice for some can be as simple as reorganizing how the response work gets done. Jul 7 CIDRAP News story “Officials release food safety plan, egg safety rules” Jul 15 CIFOR press releasecenter_img “The guidelines show that by working together, we can all dramatically improve our food safety system and further protect the public health,” she said. “We hope to further this collaborative effort through the Food Safety Working Group.” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius thanked CIFOR for its vital contribution toward food safety. Sebelius and Vilsack cochair Obama’s food safety group. In March Obama created a Food Safety Working Group, and on Jul 7 it announced its key steps for improving food safety, which included tougher standards to reduce Salmonella contamination, tighter enforcement at beef facilities, building a new trace-back and response system, and improving federal food safety oversight. CIFOR guidelines for foodborne outbreak response The guidelines start with a chapter on the fundamental concepts of surveillance and foodborne disease, followed by sections on planning, outbreak detection, investigation, and control measures. It also includes sections on specific topics such as multijurisdictional outbreaks, legal considerations, and performance indicators for foodborne disease programs. The group that authored the 200-page guidance report, the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR), is a multidisciplinary partnership of seven professional organizations and three federal agencies that seek to increase collaboration among a range of food safety officials. Its cochairs are the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). “The main thing is that this provides state and local departments with the best practices,” Holmes said, adding that there are currently no standardized methods for conducting a foodborne outbreak investigation. For example, some local and state departments use a shotgun approach with their food exposure surveys, while others typically use more targeted survey methods. Some states subtype isolates from patient specimens and submit them to national databases as soon as they receive them, rather than batching them. “Last week the Obama Administration took an important step forward by introducing tougher standards to reduce Salmonella contamination and E coli outbreaks, and the guidelines announced today will help government further that goal,” he said. Craig Hedberg, PhD, a foodborne disease expert at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who wrote three of the guideline chapters and was a member of the CIFOR guidance work group, said the new document will serve as a yardstick for measuring future outbreak response activities.last_img read more

Caribbean Urged to Brace for Continued Drought and Higher Temperatures

first_imgBRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Not only will several Caribbean islands have to endure heatwaves this summer, but many will also have to prepare for continued drought conditions through to September, this according to Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH).According to the CIMH’s latest Caribbean Climate Outlooks publication, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao (ABC Islands) Belize and the Lesser Antilles will continue to experience drought situations and that “a progressive increase in wet spells are expected throughout the region, however possibly fewer than in most wet seasons.“The spells may bring some level of drought relief, but also concern for flooding. Peak heat stress will likely be experienced between August and September, especially during heatwaves. Episodes of Saharan dust incursion are expected,” CIMH reported.It said that as of June 1, severe, or worse, drought has developed in northern Belize, eastern extremities of Cuba, coastal French Guiana, the northern Leewards, western parts of Trinidad on the shorter term, and in Barbados, southern Belize, southernmost, Dominican Republic , French Guiana, southwestern Haiti, and Martinique and Trinidad on the long term.Long term concerns are also evolving in Dominica, French Guiana, Martinique, Sint Maarten and Trinidad, and is possible in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Barbados, most of Belize, northern Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, Tobago and the United States Virgin Islands.Just last month, Cédric Van Meerbeeck, climatologist at CIMH warned Caribbean nationals to prepare for the heat season that can impact the health of citizens.“The heat season is something that didn’t happen in the past. Yes, people feel more comfortable and sometimes even cold around Christmas time and you know that it gets hotter towards September. But it’s not really common knowledge that there is a six-month period that noticeably warmer than the other part of the year and that is May to October.And during that heat season, you find that the levels of heat discomfort and heat stress [increases] so that’s impacting your health, also the health of some animals,” Van Meerbeeck said.Over the last weekend, Kingston, Jamaica recorded its highest temperature ever, a sizzling 39.1 degrees Celsius leaving Jamaican health authorities to warn nationals about the excessive heat.last_img read more