- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss keeping ill workers home to reduce both infectious and foodborne diseases. Read more below.
- To handle the rise in COVID-19 cases, the U.S. government is again sending free COVID-19 tests to U.S. households. In this 3rd round of free at-home tests, you will receive 8 tests (2 packages of 4 tests each). Sign up at COVID.gov.
- Based on the CDC’s new risk-rankings for travel, Antigua and Barbuda, Lesotho, South Africa, and Taiwan have recently been moved to Level 3 “high” risk. Similarly, some European countries including France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K. are in the Level 3 category as are Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand (CNN).
- NY Times explores the question, “How often can you be infected with the coronavirus?” as it appears that the new variants are becoming “more adept at reinfecting people.” However, it seems that “most people who are reinfected with new versions of Omicron will not become seriously ill.”
- The FDA is soon expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds (NYT).
- The ECDC has designated the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern as their numbers rise. Although first detected in South Africa and driving the cases in Africa, these two subvariants are increasingly being detected in Europe, including Portugal (CIDRAP).
- Kaiser Health News reports that much of the CDC’s award funding for state health departments to address COVID-19 health disparities has not been used (CIDRAP).
- The FDA announced an EUA for a prescription-only multi-plex PCR test that can be used to test for three viruses at once: COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (CIDRAP).
- The U.S. COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is expected to be extended past July 2022 (Bloomberg).
- In the U.S., seasonal influenza viruses continue to circulate and activity is increasing in parts of the country. CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 65,000 hospitalizations, and 4,000 deaths from flu.
- Avian flu outbreaks have now struck four more states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Wyoming (CIDRAP).
Public Health & Food Safety:
- Two new monkeypox cases have been identified in the U.K. These cases are not associated with the earlier case reported last week (CIDRAP).
- Measles cases increased globally by 79% in the first 2 months of 2022. The WHO labelled this development as a “worrying sign of a heightened risk for the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.” The global body cited pandemic-related disruptions and diversion of resources from routine immunization as the major reasons for the rise.
- In light of the worsening baby formula shortage, Abbott (in Sturgis, MI) and the FDA have struck a deal to restart the plant to produce baby formula (Mlive).
Recommendations for Industry
Keeping Ill Workers Home Reduces Transmission of Both Infectious and Foodborne Diseases
A precaution that TAG has continually recommended for reducing the transmission of COVID and other infectious diseases can also be helpful in the reduction of certain foodborne illnesses, such as the recently reported outbreak of Staphylococcal aureus (S. aureus) enterotoxin. With toxin-related illnesses (including Staph) being one of the top causes of foodborne illness in the U.S., ensuring the wellness of workers, particularly those working directly with food, will not only protect others in your workforce but also your food products.
In the most recent outbreak attributed to staph, more than 100 persons were taken ill after eating a catered dinner. According to an MDPI article, food handlers carrying S. aureus in their noses or on their hands are regarded as the main source of food contamination. The toxin can be transmitted by the persons hands or through respiratory secretions. The improper storage of food then allows the growth of the organism and production of enterotoxin contamination causing the foodborne illness.
The potential for the contamination of food through S. aureus can be reduced both by ensuring that ill workers stay home and by keeping food properly stored and proper temperatures maintained.
In Case You Missed It:
- In last Thursday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the latest COVID transmissibility data from both TAG’s matrix and CDC’s mapping. Read more here.
- Last week, North Korea imposed a nationwide lockdown as it’s acknowledging its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak (AP News).
- COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Africa and the Americas. In fact, “16 major healthcare societies […] called on federal [U.S.] officials to extend the country’s public health emergency.” While cases drop globally, cases in Africa and in the Americas are driven by Omicron subvariants. Additionlly, “[t]he five countries that reported the most cases were the United States, Australia, Germany, Italy, and South Korea. The WHO added that a sharp spike in Australia’s cases is due to revised case numbers from those confirmed by rapid tests.” In both regions, “[t] he WHO has said that rises in both regions are fueled by Omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.5 that were first identified in South Africa and BA.2.12.1 that was first identified in New York.” (CIDRAP).
- “[T]he American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, National Rural Health Association, American Health Care Association, and 12 other groups” have sent a letter to the U.S. HHS Secretary “calling for the federal government to extend the public health emergency (PHE)—set to expire in mid-July—or risk having 15 million Americans (6.7 million of them children) lose medical coverage.” Additionally, long-term care facillities “are uniquely posed to suffer if the PHE expire.” Having PHE “promotes a state of readiness by ensuring hospitals, health systems, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, clinical laboratories, and other providers have the ability to rapidly increase their capacity to care for patients, most effectively utilize their workforce, and pivot to caring for both COVID-19 patients and those in need of ongoing care.” (CIDRAP).
- The E.U. will no longer recommend masking requirements for air travel (NYT); this will come into effect next Monday. However, mask-wearing rules are still allowed to be set by airline carriers.
- With new variants emerging, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases “that while children account for less household COVID-19 transmission, their infectiousness appears to be on the rise as new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge.” In fact, “[s]econdary infections spread by children made up 30% of 207 secondary infections, compared with 70% for adults.” (CIDRAP).
- The FDA is warning consumers against using “Skippack Medical Lab SARS-COV-2 antigen rapid test” due to its risk of false results. This brand is currently undergoing a Class 1 Recall.
- On the topic of vaccines, new research from Singapore has found that mixing and matching mRNA COVID vaccines may actually offer better protection against the Omicron variant (CIDRAP).
- The FDA has updated its guidance on limiting the use of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine to certain individuals, specifically “individuals 18 years of age and older for whom other authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines are not accessible or clinically appropriate, and to individuals 18 years of age and older who elect to receive the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine because they would otherwise not receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”
- President Biden “will appeal for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as he convenes a second virtual summit on the pandemic and marks ‘a tragic milestone’ as the U.S. approaches 1 million deaths.” The summit will begin, virtually, on Thursday and will continue to ask for more funding (AP News).
Public Health & Food Safety:
- Reuters has written an article discussing why food prices are rising, exploring the causes that have led to this point, the conflicts involved, which foods have the highest costs (including cereal grains , “meats, poultry, fish, and eggs”) as well as when prices might decrease and who is most impacted.
- The Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences funded new research on hazards in low-moisture foods to fill “critical knowledge gaps and identif[y] cutting-edge decontamination tools […] as part of a multi-center research collaboration between the University of Guelph, Health Canad and North Carolina State University.” Findings from their research include: (1) identifying novel genes that facility survival of Salmonella in LMF; (2) modeling Listeria monocytogenes survival on Model LMF; (3) pathogen inactivation (Salmonella or LM) on “dried strawberries, dried apples, raisins, chocolate crumbs, cornflakes and pistachios”; (4) comparing viral recovery and isolation on “on chocolate, pistachios and cornflakes” to determine which matrix allowed for more rapid extraction of viruses; (5) measuring the “survival of Listeria monocytogenes was measured during long-term storage on three fruits” wherein “Listeria monocytogenes is rapidly inactivated during storage on raisins and dried strawberries at 23 degrees C, but capable of long-term survival at 4 degrees C.”; (6) examining “the survival of foodborne viruses in LMF during four-week storage at room temperature” using various methods for inactivation including “UV radiation, ozone, and peroxide”; and (7) understanding the viability and culturability of Salmonella on strawberries and raisins (Food Safety News).
- Walmart is seeking to prioritize employee mental health by weeking to “open up the conversation about mental health and help break the stigma that often surrounds it. The retailer is launching a program to spread awareness among its associates about mental health issues and also teach them the skills necessary to aid or even save a life.” This will be done through a 4-hour Mental Haelth First Aid training course to “teach Walmart employees how to identify, understand and respond to people who are struggling with mental health challenges” (Progressive Grocer).
- A new study suggestes that a “high-fiber diet is associated with fewer antibiotic-resistance genes in gut bacteria” (CIDRAP).
- The global number of unexplained hepatitis cases in kids is now over 450 individuals (CIDRAP).