Is anything safe to eat? Spoiler alert: NO

Well, we have a lot to unpack here at PlagueGirl.  First off, food is no longer safe to eat.  This should have been obvious to everyone with the deadly listeria outbreak in cantaloupe and the E.coli outbreaks that have been linked to cookie dough, beef and spinach, just to mention a few.

But if for some reason all of this escaped you and you continued eating your raw cookie dough with your hands blissfully unaware, I am here to inform you it appears nothing is safe to eat anymore. (On a personal note, none of this has stopped me from eating anything, ever, but I like to live dangerously as PlagueGirl.)

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Recently, seemingly innocent bags of frozen berries have been linked to an outbreak of Hepatitis A.  At this point, some people expect their meat to have mad cow or E.coli or some sort of contamination, but their healthy bags of frozen berries?!  (On another personal note, I recently invested in a blender and have been making tons of delicious smoothies.  But like I said, I live dangerously.)  Click here for more info on Hepatitis A.

Next on our list of contaminated foods is CHEESE.  CHEESE! Cheese is both delicious and no stranger to contamination.  A recent outbreak of listeria has been linked to cheese sold at Whole Foods stores.  So far, it has been associated with the death of one person and the possible miscarriage of a pregnant woman.  Click here for more info on Listeria.

Upcoming on PlagueGirl: Coronavirus, Valley Fever, and whatever the next food-borne illness may be!

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Vomit!

If there’s one thing I love it’s the word vomit. A useful word to describe dislike or disgust with something, I try to incorporate this word into daily use.  You can imagine my delight/trepidation when seeing the following headline:

Winter vomiting alert: New strain of norovirus on the rise!

Even better is the graphic CBS News uses to illustrate this really fun virus:

wow hurl

This awesome vomit virus (officially named GII.4 Sydney) originated in Australia and has been spreading fast.  If you couldn’t tell from the picture it has a reputation for inducing projectile vomiting in affected people. The CDC says this strain has caused outbreaks in multiple countries and is responsible for over 140 outbreaks in the US.

I don’t know about you, but as a self proclaimed hypochondriac, I certainly feel vaguely nauseous just reading these articles.  I also ride public transportation frequently and touch probably hundreds of shared surfaces throughout the day so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this hurling virus is lurking inside me waiting to erupt.

Stay disinfected everyone!

-The sometimes updated PlagueGirl

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CDC Notes From the (Vomit) Field

OMFG: Cats and the Plague

Article: Man Gets Plague From Stray Cat

A Scary Snippet:

Gaylord’s illness began after he saw a stray cat with a dead mouse jammed in the back of his throat. The cat appeared to be choking, so Gaylord and a friend attempted to dislodge the mouse. The distressed cat bit his hand. Unable to remove the mouse, Gaylord shot Charlie to end his suffering and buried him in the yard. Two days later, he awoke with a fever and chills.

He spent nearly a month on life support and only recently left the intensive care unit. At one point, doctors thought he was going to die, said Debbie Gaylord, his wife.

Do Not Put Hand Here

I guess the lesson here is not to stick your hand down the mouth of a stray cat.  Probably you shouldn’t stick your hand down the mouth of your pet cat either.  Just a hunch, but I don’t think cats like this sort of attention.  Just always assume everything is diseased and you will be safe. You might also be paranoid all the time but that’s a small price to pay.  And whatever you do, do NOT google pictures of “plague.”

Update: This is a frivolous observation compared to the fact this man will likely lose all his fingers but this is the only article I have found so far that gave the now deceased stray cat a name.

CDC Plague Page

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Bacteria Making Themselves at Home in Your Reusable Bags

It’s grocery shopping day and you are ready to conquer the crowds by zipping in and out of the story with your handy list and reusable grocery bag.  Not so fast! Did you know that reusable grocery bag of yours could contain bacteria that may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially death? That’s right, the norovirus has struck again!

Bag O’ Germs?

A soccer team in Oregon recently became infected with the norovirus and experts traced it to a sick teammate’s reusable grocery bag.  The bag was in the hotel room with the sick teammate and particles of the norovirus landed on the bag, which the other teammates were then exposed to.

The virus can live on objects for a lengthy time period.  The bag in question tested positive for norovirus two weeks later.

Back in 2010, a study was conducted that tested 84 reusable bags for coliform bacteria, a category that included E. coli. The report says researchers found E. coli in seven of the bags tested. Though the risk for infection is small,  researchers also found 97 percent of the people interviewed never washed their bags.

Some have dismissed this study because it was funded by the American Chemistry Council which represents makers of disposable plastic bags, saying they may have a vested interest in showing people their reusable bags are covered in germs.

The good news is that washing these bags regularly decreases contamination by 99.9 percent. As always, proper hygiene and hand washing also dramatically decreases your chance of becoming infected.

CDC Norovirus Fact Sheet

Weekly Outbreak Update From PlagueGirl!

  • Cantaloupes and the Listeria Outbreak:  According to the CDC the current Listeria outbreak has resulted in 23 deaths so far. IT is the deadliest known outbreak of foodborne illness in the USA in more than 25 years.  A total of 116 people have been sickened and more outbreaks are expected. Symptoms may take up to 2 months to develop.  In the “Cantaloupe Center of the World,” hundreds of workers have been laid off.  Now even safe cantaloupes aren’t selling.  In California, where the season is nearly over, many growers are thinking about abandoning their fields.
  • Swine Flu in Nicaragua:  Thirty-two people have been infected with the H1N1 virus, all of them either in stable condition or discharged.  The media is assuring people there is no need for alarm. Not yet, anyway.
  • The Seals Aren’t Safe: A mysterious outbreak among seals in Arctic Alaska.  Hundreds of seals have been seen with mangy hair and skin lesions, and half of them have been found dead. Reports of nearly 150 other seals with the illness have come in from surrounding villages.
  • Feral Cats and Rabies: In Bay County, Florida, 5 animals have been diagnosed with rabies this year.  A feral cat in the area was observed acting strangely and officials have since set up a trapping program.  More than 30 cats have been trapped and euthanized because of their proximity to the rabid cat.  People are being advised to not approach animals acting strangely.   More about rabies, if you’re curious.

Standard Feral Cat