TIME ebola

200 People Are To Be Vaccinated In Sierra Leone After Ebola Death

The country had begun a 42-day countdown to being declared Ebola-free

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) is to begin vaccinating about 200 people in Sierra Leone who came into contact with a woman who died from Ebola on Saturday.

The woman, a 67-year-old from the Kambia district near the border with Guinea, died just five days after the country discharged its last known Ebola patient from hospital, reports Reuters. Sierra Leone had begun a 42-day countdown to being declared Ebola-free — the last reported case of the disease being on Aug. 8.

“We will vaccinate those … who came into direct contact with the deceased and those contacts they also came into close contact with,” said W.H.O. spokesperson Margaret Harris.

The head of the National Ebola Response Center in Sierra Leone, Pallo Conteh, said more Ebola cases in the country are likely to be reported.

Ebola experts are still investigating the source of transmission and have appealed to the niece of the woman to come forward as she was at high risk.

Last year’s deadly outbreak infected more than 28,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and killed more than 11,300.


TIME Infectious Disease

Blue Bell Ice Cream Slowly Returns to Stores

The ice cream is making its way back into select markets after spurring a listeria outbreak

Blue Bell Creameries resumed delivering ice cream to select regions on Monday, several months after shutting down production when Blue Bell products were identified as the source of a multi-state listeria outbreak.

The first deliveries of ice cream were made early Monday morning in Brenham, Texas, where a local NBC News station says freezers were well stocked with Blue Bell ice cream.

Blue Bell production was shut down earlier this year after it was determined that Americans were getting sick with listeriosis from consuming Blue Bell products. The multi-state outbreak hospitalized 10 people, and three people died. In April, Blue Bell recalled all of its products.

MORE: How Ice Cream Gets Contaminated—and Sometimes Kills

In early August, Alabama approved Blue Bell’s request to resume production and delivery. Since the company still only has limited production capacity, it plans to re-enter 15 states in five phases. Monday began the first phase, which includes distribution to the Brenham, Houston and Austin, Texas areas and Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.

“Over the past several months we have been working to make our facilities even better, and to ensure that everything we produce is safe, wholesome and of the highest quality for you to enjoy,” Ricky Dickson, vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bell, said in a statement.

You can see where Blue Bell will be distributing next, here.

TIME public health

Turkey Bacon and Six Other Foods to Avoid This Week

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Spoiled turkey bacon and bread with glass bits are being recalled

In our food supply, safety sometimes slips through the cracks. Unfortunately, the U.S. saw quite a few recalls this week, and since not every recall reported to authorities makes headlines, we’ve rounded them up for you. If you purchased a product that’s been recalled, you can often return it from where you bought it for a refund.

Turkey bacon
Brand: Oscar Mayer
Contaminated with: Spoils earlier than indicated.
Kraft Heinz Foods Company is recalling about 2,068,467 pounds of turkey bacon products because the products may spoil before their “best when used by” date. The issue was discovered when consumers complained about spoilage problems. The company has received reports of illness. Read the full report here.

Brands: Sara Lee, Great Value, Kroger, Bimbo, Nature’s Harvest and L’Oven Fresh
Contaminated with: Possible glass fragments
Bimbo Bakeries has recalled some of its breads sold under a variety of brands due to the possible presence of glass from a broken light bulb in one of the company’s bakeries. The company was made aware of the problem after three consumers reported small pieces of glass on the outside of the bread. Read the full report here.

Duck head and neck
Brand: California Qi Li’s Braised Chicken
Contaminated with: Undeclared soy sauce
California Qi Li’s Braised Chicken is recalling about 6,644 pounds of duck head and duck neck products due to undeclared soy sauce. There have been no reports of illness from the product. Read the full report here.

MORE: Why You Shouldn’t Eat Delicious Charred Foods

Macadamia nuts
Brand: Jansal Valley
Contaminated with: Salmonella
Food distributor Sid Wainer and Son of New Bedford, MA is recalling Jansal Valley brand Raw Macadamia Nuts after the bacteria Salmonella was found in a one-pound package of the nuts. So far no illnesses have been reported. Read the full report here.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Brand: Sam Mills
Contaminated with: Undeclared dairy
Sam Mills is recalling 11,083 cases of 4.4 ounce boxes of Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars due to possible contamination with dairy. The product currently claims to be dairy-free even though there is a risk of cross contamination with dairy. This could be problematic for people with dairy sensitivities. Read the full report here.

Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Contaminated with: Undeclared milk
Candy retailer Jo’s Candies is recalling Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt because the product may contain milk which is not listed on the label. That’s problematic for people who have milk-related allergies. So far there have been two reactions to the product reported. Read the full report here.

Green beans
Brand: Cascadian Farm
Contaminated with: Listeria monocytogenes
General Mills is recalling packages of its Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans. One package tested positive for the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported. Read the full report here.

TIME Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Is Reporting a Surge in MERS Deaths

Some 2 million Muslims are due to arrive next month for the annual hajj pilgrimage

A rash of fatalities from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has been reported in Saudi Arabia, where 19 people have died after contracting the disease this week alone.

Including the recent spate, the kingdom’s Health Ministry has recorded 502 fatalities and 1,171 reported cases since June 2012 when the virus first appeared, reports Agence France-Presse.

The surge in infections comes as Saudi Arabia prepares to host about 2 million Muslims who will travel to the country for the annual hajj pilgrimage next month.

Health authorities shut down the emergency ward in one of the capital Riyadh’s largest hospitals last week, after at least 46 people, including hospital staff, contracted the disease.

MERS is viral respiratory infection that causes fever, coughs and breathing difficulties. It is caused by a coronavirus and is considered more deadly but less contagious than its cousin Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which spread globally in 2002 at an eventual cost of more than 8,000 lives.


TIME Infectious Disease

The Vast Majority of U.S. Kids Are Vaccinated

TIME.com stock photos Health Syringe Needle
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Less than 1% of children received no vaccinations in 2014, but pockets of low vaccination rates put kids at risk

Vaccines are one of the most effective tools for preventing serious diseases in childhood and later in life, and new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows most children in the U.S. are vaccinated.

CDC researchers looked at national, regional, state and local vaccine coverage rates and found that overall coverage remains high, and hasn’t changed much between 2013 and 2014. The data shows that the national target of 90% coverage was reached for poliovirus (three or more doses of the vaccine), measles, mumps and rubella (one or more doses of the vaccine), hepatitis B (three or more doses of the vaccine) and varicella (one or more dose of the vaccine).

Overall, children below the federal poverty level had the lowest coverage for nearly all types of vaccinations.

A second report published Thursday from CDC researchers found that most kindergarteners entering the 2014-15 school year were vaccinated, and the exemption rate for vaccines nationwide was about 1.7%.

That’s the national picture at least. The data also shows that state-exemption rates range pretty significantly, with Mississippi at less than 0.1% and Idaho at a high of 6.5%. There were five states that did not meet the CDC’s reporting standards for providing vaccine exemption data. Pockets of children who miss vaccinations exist in our communities and they leave these communities vulnerable to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in a press conference.

Pockets of low vaccination rates have proven problematic this year. In the new report, the researchers write that in 2015, measles outbreak cases included 68 unvaccinated Americans, and among those people, 29 cited philosophic or religious objections to vaccines. The CDC says the U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases in 2014 at 668 cases. That’s the highest number of measles cases since the disease was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. Between January to August 21, 2015, there have been 188 cases of measles so far.

“We always worry about children and others with leukemia and other similar medical problems who can’t actually receive the [measles, mumps, and rubella] vaccine themselves,” said Schuchat.

The CDC reports in its latest study, that among the 49 reporting states and the District of Columbia (DC), the median vaccination coverage rate was 94% for the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and approximately 94% for local requirements for the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine. Varicella coverage was 93.6% among the 39 states and DC that have a 2-dose varicella vaccine requirement.

Some states are strengthening their requirements for exemptions. In 2015, California removed religious and philosophic exemptions for kids in public and private schools and Vermont removed philosophic exemptions. Schuchat recommended parents find out what their states’ vaccination exemption rates are.

Getting routine vaccines in childhood is estimated to prevent 322 million cases of disease and 732,000 early deaths among kids, the CDC points out in its report. The benefits of vaccination are not just for health. Routine vaccination could save $1.38 trillion.

TIME Infectious Disease

Scientists Unveil ‘Promising First Step’ to Universal Flu Vaccine

It's a small but important step

Scientists are one step closer to developing a universal flu vaccine to protect against all strains of the virus.

Every year, scientists take an educated guess on which strains of flu will be circulating in a given season so that the annual flu vaccine can protect against those strains. Sometimes though, the vaccine does not protect against a particular strain and people can still get sick. But on Monday, two teams of researchers revealed that they’re getting closer to figuring out a way to create a vaccine that can protect against multiple strains for a long period of time.

The purpose of a vaccine is to create antibodies that protect the body against invading viruses. In the new studies published in the journals Science and Nature, the researchers formulated a vaccine that used the part of a virus that doesn’t mutate as much. Researchers have known that the head of a viral protein called hemagglutinin changes easily, whereas its stem remains relatively unchanged. However, until now scientists have struggled to achieve an immune response with the stem rather than the ever-changing head.

The researchers in the new study were able to formulate a vaccine that created antibodies from the stem. The vaccines showed success among a variety of lab animals including mice, ferrets and monkeys and protected against flu strains like H5N1 avian flu and H1N1 (swine flu).

“The [experimental] designs were different, but the end results were very similar and highly complementary,” Ian Wilson, co-author on Science, said. “It’s a promising first step, and it’s very exciting to see this research come to fruition.”

The vaccines are not yet “universal” vaccines, but they may lay the groundwork for building better vaccines down the line.

TIME Infectious Disease

Ground Beef Contains Dangerous Bacteria, Study Finds

Ground Beef
Getty Images

You may want to pay attention to the type of beef you buy

Store-bought ground beef often contains a variety of bacteria that can make humans sick and is resistant to the drugs used to treat it, according to new data from Consumer Reports.

While most bacteria in meat can be killed when cooked correctly, many Americans prefer to eat their meat rare, putting them at a greater risk for illness—especially when the meat comes from conventionally raised cows, which are treated with antibiotics and hormones, according to a new Consumer Reports study. The study found that nearly 20% of ground beef in the U.S. tested from conventionally raised cows had bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics. Only 9% of ground beef that was sustainably made had antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

For the report, Consumer Reports purchased and tested 300 packages of conventionally and sustainably produced ground beef sold in stores around the U.S. The meat was tested for five common types of bacteria that can be found in beef: Clostridium perfringens, E. coli, Enterococcus, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria of some kind was found in all of the beef samples, though sustainably produced beef was less likely to have harmful strains.

More than 80% of conventional ground beef had two types of bacteria and nearly 20% of the samples contained C. perfringens, which causes close to a million cases of food poisoning every year. “There’s no way to tell by looking at a package of meat or smelling it whether it has harmful bacteria or not,” Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports, said.“You have to be on guard every time.”

The research also found that 10% of the samples had a strain of S. aureus that produces a toxin that can make people ill and is not killed even when the meat is cooked properly. Still, cooking meat at 160 degrees Fahrenheit should kill most bacteria.

The findings suggest that consumers may want to look for ground beef that’s sustainably produced, with labels reading “no antibiotics,” “grass-fed,” and “organic,” according to Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports says “grass-fed organic” may be one of the best labels to go by since it means the cattle eat organic grass and forage and do not receive antibiotics or hormones.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that the agency has put tight food safety standards in place over the last six years to avoid public health problems. “Measures taken to improve ground beef safety include a zero-tolerance policy for six dangerous strains of E. coli, better procedures for detecting the source of outbreaks, improved laboratory testing, and more. USDA’s food safety inspectors work in every meat facility, every day, to reduce illnesses across all products we regulate, and we’re proud to report that illnesses attributed to those items dropped by 10% from 2013 to 2014,” he said.

TIME public health

The One Food to Avoid Buying This Week

Pig in the sty
Getty Images

Hint: it's a whole hog

It was a pretty good week for food recalls, but one item stood out in these final days of summer: whole hogs for barbeques.

On Thursday, federal officials announced that Kapowsin Meats, a company based in Graham, Washington, recalled 116,262 pounds of whole hogs due to possible Salmonella contamination. The bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps in people who consume it. Some people who consume Salmonella-tainted products may develop a severe infection and need to be hospitalized.

MORE: 38 Things Americans Say They’ve Found In A Hot Dog

In July, the Washington State Department of Health notified authorities that it was investigating Salmonella illnesses in the state. Health officials eventually linked these infections to whole hogs for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats. More than 30 people ate the hogs before they became infected with Salmonella.

The investigation is continuing, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says there are 134 people in Washington whose onset of illness between April 25, 2015 to July 27, 2015. Those sicknesses may be tied to the contaminated hogs, which were produced between April 18, 2015 and July 27, 2015.

MORE: Meet The Secret Group That Decides Which Flavors Are ‘Natural’

FSIS and Kapowsin Meats worry some consumers may have contaminated meat in their freezers. The meat was shipped to consumers, retail shops and distributors in Alaska and Washington.

There’s concern among health officials that the source of the outbreak could go beyond Kapowsin Meats and to farms in Washington or Montana. “Eight of 11 environmental samples from the slaughterhouse did return positives for the pathogen, which is being seen in Washington State for the first time ever,” Food Safety News reports.

TIME Infectious Disease

Congo Measles Outbreak Infects at Least 20,000

It's the worst measles outbreak in the region since 2010-2011

A measles outbreak in a southeast province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has killed more than 300 people and infected at least 20,000, according to a preliminary United Nations report.

The outbreak is still expanding, according to the draft report, and hundreds more in remote areas may have died without their deaths being recorded.

The news, reported by Reuters and confirmed by TIME, marks the worst measles outbreak in the region since a 2010-2011 outbreak killed more than 1,000 people. The report, drafted by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says that more than $2 million is needed to fight the disease in the region.

The outbreak, while devastating, isn’t entirely surprising given conditions in the Congo. The country ranks low on measures of access to healthcare and many are not vaccinated for diseases like measles.

TIME California

Child Contracts the Plague After Trip to Yosemite National Park

sign yosemite National Park California
Max Whittaker—Reuters A sign on the edge of Yosemite National Park, Calif., is surrounded by a burn from the Rim Fire on August 23, 2013.

The child reportedly got sick after visiting a campsite at Yosemite National Park

Public Health officials in California are investigating a case of the plague contracted by a child who had recently camped at Yosemite National Park. News of the investigation comes in the wake of reports of the recent death of a Colorado resident who had contracted the rare disease; that case marked the second plague death in Colorado this year.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the child—whose age, gender, ethnicity have not been released—got sick after camping at Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground in mid-July. The child was hospitalized shortly after and is currently recovering. No one else that the child was camping with has reported being sick.

Public health officials say the last time a human case of the plague—it’s often found in fleas and rodents—was reported was in 2006. As a precaution, officials are warning residents to protect themselves from bugs using repellant containing DEET and to avoid feeding live, wild rodents and touching dead ones.

“Never feed squirrels, chipmunks, or other rodents in picnic or campground areas, and never touch sick or dead rodents. Protect your pets from fleas and keep them away from wild animals,” said Dr. Karen Smith, the director of the California Department of Health, in a statement.

Symptoms of the plague include high fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. When caught in the early stages, plague is treatable by antibiotics. Without treatment, the disease can kill.

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