A Pig from Jersey

The last Saturday of June, 1957, having finished my internship, I left Lansing, MI, about midnight in my little VW with orders to report to CDC in Atlanta at 8:00 AM Monday to begin my two years of service in the US Public Health Service. I was to audit the course for the Epidemic Intelligence Service before reporting to the Technical Development Laboratory in Savannah, GA. The EIS course was founded and taught by Alexander Langmuir. Langmuir was a bigger than life, charismatic story teller who quickly made me feel that epidemiology was the most fascinating subject available to mere humans. There were maybe 40 or 50 of us taking the course and in front of our assigned seats there was a stack of reading material that looked generally pretty serious. But on the top of the stack there was a small paperback book with the title “Eleven Blue Men” by Berton Roueche. It looked strangely out of place and unserious and I put it aside for later.

I don’t remember when “later” arrived, but when it did, I was treated to a series of fascinating articles of which the Jersey pig was the first. It concerned a schlachtfest being held at the New York Labor Temple, a German-American meeting-and-banquet hall. A schlachtfest, for those of you uninitiated, is a pork feast. The pig in question was purchased by a butcher in Staten Island and the carcass was taken to the Labor Temple in Manhattan where it was converted into sausage among other things. One of the men involved in this escapade had eaten some of the raw sausage to check on the seasoning, and the rest is history. The man became very ill with fever (he later died) and the physician, a Dr Levy, came to the diagnosis when he discovered an elevated eosinophil count in his blood smear. It was then confirmed by a muscle biopsy which showed numerous Trichinella spiralis parasites.

Trichinosis is one of the many parasites one studies about in Microbiology, but I had never seen a case until some years ago when I was assisting in an outpatient laboratory here in Salt Lake City. I didn’t see the patient myself but I heard her story second-hand. This young lady had been on vacation in Hawaii and had been invited to a luau. The luau was the genuine thing apparently with a whole roast pig on a rotisserie above a fire. Everybody enjoyed the fresh roast pork. Except that the young lady in question arrived somewhat late to the proceedings and her portion of pork was from a more interior portion of the carcass that had not been adequately heated to kill the larvae.

Here the details are sketchy but she apparently had the usual GI symptoms followed by severe muscle pain. By this time she was back home in Salt Lake City and her doctor ordered the usual lab tests including a CBC. Thus the blood smear that showed more eosinophils than I had ever seen before. This was some time in the 1970s and I don’t remember the percentage of eosinophils
but I think it may have been around 30%, about 10 times normal. The smear was lit up with red lights like a Christmas tree. That number of eosinophils doesn’t define trichinosis but it certainly is highly suggestive.

Today trichinosis is very rare, but it is just the rare diseases we don’t think of that can rear their ugly heads and bite us in the rear. Tricky trichinosis. Maybe the ancient Hebrews knew something important. Whatever. May Trichinella spiralis rest in peace and bother us no more.

Gordon Short, MD
Brevis Corporation


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Contributing Factors to the Flu Season

Except for it being “Flu Season”, I love the winter months.

If you live near 40°′N like I do, undoubtedly you’ve experienced some snow this season, to which not a single person has a neutral opinion. Personally, I’ve crossed zero several times in my life. Starting with love for fluffy white playful snow as a child, moving swiftly into a deep hatred for a biting, slushy, wintery death while walking to school in canvas shoes, and finally back to love for a nostalgically snowy day as an adult.

Currently I’m a huge fan of snow, though not for any of the reasons I could have predicted, much less reasons good enough to write a blog article, but here we go anyway. I like driving in the snow (though I hate when other people drive in the snow), I like watching the accumulation of a winter wonderland as snow falls across the streetlamps at night, and I enjoy the human surrender to nature as we dig all of our heavy clothing out of storage and attire ourselves ritualistically for the smallest tasks. I won’t go anywhere without my boots. If you see me in snow without them, destroy the imposter, or check for signs of meningitis.

New Posters

Heating Your Home

The heat in my house is off until the first sunny day in March. Some people find that strange. Nearly all others think it’s criminal. This habit serves me twice: I save quite a bit of money on utilities, and it dissuades nearly all pesky pop-ins. I own plenty of warm clothing that stays in storage most of the year, and I like to use it occasionally. I won’t go as far as to say I’m reclusive, but I do spend the majority of my time alone, in the dark, trying to stay warm. On the plus side, I rarely get sick. With so few people coming in and out of my house, the opportunity for germ transfer in these sickly winter months is highly reduced.

So why am I completely miserable, smelling like an herbal tea factory, sweating and shivering at the same time? Well it turns out that it could be my fault. Whoever said I can’t take accountability for my actions?

All About Germs

I didn’t grow up knowing a lot about germs, then again I didn’t grow up knowing a lot about most things. It turns out there are several factors that contribute to what we affectionately call “flu season”. Among these are the usual suspects: 

I don’t doubt the contributions of these well studied factors, but my lifestyle leads me to believe there’s another player in the game. I don’t spend time with anyone else, and it’s not like I see a lot of sun during the hot months anyway.

Winter Gear

It turns out that my beloved winter gear that keeps me alive for three months of the year, forgotten for nine, is a suitable suspect. It’s generally agreed, or at least intuitively good practice, that coats, hats, and gloves should be washed more often than most most people likely do. Not because you’re gross (though you probably are), but because those are often overlooked items that live in the back of a closet, emerging only in desperate times, and forgotten again just as quickly. I would venture a guess that most people don’t think to properly wash and store their winter clothing. Partly because the winter season often still makes brief and occasionally devastating appearances all the way through a stormy Spring, and partly because it’s not the kind of thing that comes to mind during the first blissfully warm day of the year.

While performing average activities during an unremarkable day, people have been shown to touch their faces up to 16 times per hour. That seems high initially, but I’ve been very conscious of my face since I started writing this article and at this point I think the number could easily be much higher. Most people could stand a reeducation on hand-washing. And though folks aren’t washing their hands well enough, or often enough, they’re certainly washing their hands more often than they’re washing their gloves.

Remember as you go about your day, touching things, that the same germs that you would normally collect on your hands are now on your gloves. The germ accumulation on gloves over the period of a few weeks is surely much higher than even improperly washed hands. So what can you do? Wash your gloves, hats, and coats! And while you’re at it, brush up on your hand washing habits in general.

I’ll be under the blankets until this whole thing blows over.

Can the holidays make you sick?

What makes us get sick more often during the holiday season?

Many theories have been postulated and studied over the years and many factors are blamed for being virus enablers. Closer proximity of hosts (us) within closed spaces makes transmission easier due to the shared air we breathe while indoors and the common surfaces we touch as people share confined areas. Further, foods are presented and ingested in areas with higher germ populations due to the foregoing.

Other theories suggest that inactivity and depression generally increases with the cold and gloomy weather and this coupled with decreased exposure to the sun may tend to inhibit our immune systems.

We suspect that all of these factors and more contribute to the seasonal spike in illnesses. But, there are some commons sense actions that can help reduce your chances of being the next holiday (infection) host. The most effective way to reduce your risks of seasonal sickness is to wash your hands often, especially after shaking hands, touching surfaces in common areas such as handrails and countertops and especially before eating.

In the spirit of holiday cheer (and microbial fear) check out these funny new flu and handwashing posters meant to remind with mirth and good cheer.

Healthy holidays to all.


New Flu & Handwashing Posters

 

Image of flu close up by cdc.gov.

Flu Education – Another Anniversary?

2018 – Another Anniversary?

Anniversaries. To celebrate or just to observe?

2018 is the fortieth anniversary of the incorporation of Brevis. Yeah!

2018 is the anniversary of the end of World War One.

Great Influenza Pandemic

But 2018 is also the one-hundredth anniversary of the Great Influenza Pandemic. And a dramatic start of a hundred years war that has no end in sight. World-wide this pandemic claimed somewhere between 20 and 100 million victims in 1918-1919. Pick your source to pick your number.

In previous essays we have shown how the flu predisposed us to World War II by disabling Woodrow Wilson during the writing of the Treaty of Versailles. We have also talked about the search by intrepid scientists for the original virus which took them to frozen corpses in Brevig Mission, Alaska. The virus may have been identified but that does not explain how the original epidemic starting in Fort Funston, Kansas was quite mild and then became much more virulent in subsequent outbreaks. One thing is clear: Army forts were crowded with new recruits who were destined for Europe. Crowding was ideal for spread of this virus.

The highly mutable virus appears to have a natural host in ducks and ducks seem happy to share with chickens and pigs. Of which multitudes reside in China. So we go to China to discover each year which strains are on the current hit parade so that we can develop effective flu vaccines. Maybe this is how China is demonstrating the importance of their trade with the US. Or is it just a free gift as a way of saying Thank You for all the other goodies we import from them?

Wash Your Hands

Regardless of all the ins and outs of influenza – and all other infectious diseases – the best we can come up with for prevention are proper hand hygiene and vaccination. As the decades roll by replete with outbreaks of new often more virulent strains of nasties the most effective strategy remains the same. Wash your hands. Wash them often. Wash them well.

Happy Anniversaries!

Gordon Short, MD
Brevis Corporation
13 November 2018


New Flu Posters

 

International Infection Prevention Week 2018, IIPW

Well Friends,

It’s October again and that means it’s International Infection Prevention Week again. With the fall colors also come dropping temperatures and increasing incidents of Colds, Flu and other illnesses. As temperatures drop we collectively spend more time indoors where germs can transfer from host to host more readily. Increased readiness can help with infection control and  prevention which is always easier than recovery. Sanitize commonly touched objects and places often and remember to wash your hands frequently. Stay ahead of the germs and encourage prevention with robust emphasis. Brevis products help you lead the way with posters, mugs and of course GlitterBug® Hand-Washing and Hand-Sanitizing training aids.

Save 20% with code “IIPW”

Also to aid your budget and just in time for International Infection Prevention Week – for this week only receive 20% off all Brevis products . Just type IIPW in the promo code field in the shopping cart to receive your discount. Jump-start your IIPW program with fun colorful handwashing swag and don’t forget to re-stock your GlitterBug® supplies.

Sale ends at midnight Saturday Oct 6.

GlitterBug handwashing products

IIPW Games and Activities (apic.org)

Help Prevent Infections

Sometimes a patient develops an infection while being treated in the hospital or other medical facility. It could be an infection from germs that enter the body at a surgery site. It could be an infection that develops from germs carried on a piece of medical equipment. There are many possible causes.

Infections like these are called healthcare associated infections, or HAIs, and we take them very seriously.

The good news is that we can prevent…  Download the full PDF from Apic.org

September is Food Safety Month

September is National Food Safety Month and because everybody eats, everybody should be reminded about the importance of safe food handling. Safe food handling is critical of course for those who prepare your food, but the food-consumer should be careful not to introduce microbial pests while eating. Proper hand-washing is the common denominator of effective infection prevention. To help you with your mission of promoting food-safety and infection prevention Brevis is holding a September Special.

Sick Facts

  • Foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. about $78 billion per year.
  • Each year, approximately 1 in 6 Americans gets foodborne illness.
  • Foodborne illnesses result in over 3,000 deaths each year.
  • 68% of outbreaks occur at restaurants.
    Sourced from CDC.gov

10% off all GlitterBug products

Just enter promo code “Educate” while checking out your shopping cart.

Clean hands, safe food, healthy people.

GlitterBug handwashing products

Food Safety (CDC.gov)

Government Study Says You’re Washing Your Hands the Wrong Way

…Which Is Gross and You Should Fix It

Hey, did you wash your hands recently? Well, you probably did it wrong. CNN pointed out a recent government study found that 97 percent of the time, people fail to properly wash their hands—a problem that can lead to all sorts of unnecessary illnesses being spread.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, people are falling short of meeting the standards for acceptable handwashing set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bar to make sure your hands are sufficiently clean requires you to wash and scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds.

The study looked at 363 people in six kitchen test facilities located in the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina and in the town of Smithfield, North Carolina. What it found was nearly every person working in the kitchens failed to reach the handwashing standard set by the CDC, which is probably not reassuring if you’re currently out to eat at a restaurant in Tar Heel State.

Read on Gizmodo

GlitterBug handwashing products

By AJ Dellinger / gizmodo.com

Moments when you should wash your hands

Certain events, actions or circumstances can make handwashing more important. For example, after being in public places, or handling often-touched objects like handrails and doorknobs, before preparing food, before eating and after using the rest-room. When possible it is best to avoid touching moist areas of your body such as eyes, nose and mouth unless you first wash your hands. Further, it is advisable to wash your hands after touching those areas. Germs most often travel by climbing aboard hands until they find a good opportunity to jump off into food we consume or directly into the portals of our bodies (mouth, nose and eyes etc.). Before helping these bugs find the greener pastures and making us sick send them down the drain.

cdc.gov/handwashing

GlitterBug handwashing products

Prevention always starts with good hand hygiene

Searching for the cause of an E Coli outbreak can send investigators in many different directions. This is a reminder that good hand hygiene practices and proper food preparation are of utmost importance. E Coli can be found in contaminated soil or water but it can also be spread through infected people. Germs that make us sick are everywhere and while we cannot always control where or how our food is grown we can control how we prepare it and make sure our hands are clean when doing so. Check out these links to the latest news on the Romain lettuce E Coli outbreak and the CDC which both reference person-to-person contact and the importance of hand washing.

Discount code ‘SUMMER’ good for 10% Off! extended to June 30

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Ebola Again

Africa is experiencing a sad case of deja vu as Ebola rears its ugly head again. A recent outbreak in Congo has health professionals on high alert. Make sure your team is prepared should the need arise for PPE protocols. This teaching set from Brevis includes GlitterBug Powder and the UVA LED SpotShooter8 Lamp. Apply a small amount of GlitterBug Powder to the PPE before doffing and then use the lamp to illuminate contamination.

Glitterbug PPE Training Set