HPS Weekly Report
13 Mar 2018
Volume 52 No. 10
Annual surveillance reports – Salmonella and Campylobacter
Campylobacter levels in UK retail chickens
On 8 March 2018, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) noted that the top nine retailers across the UK have now published their testing results on Campylobacter contamination in UK-produced fresh whole chickens for the period October to December 2017.
The figures show that on average, across the market, 4.5% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination, these are the chickens carrying more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) of Campylobacter. The figure testing positive at the highest level of contamination for the previous quarter, July-September 2017, was 5.14%.
This reduction builds on the first set of results released by retailers in November 2017, covering the period July-September 2017, with the overall trend continuing to show a reduction in the highest level of contamination. This is consistent with previous research which shows a lower level of contamination over the cooler months of the year.
Source: FSA, 8 March 2018
Listeriosis - South Africa update
Further to Current Note 52/0403, the South African Government on 4 March 2018 identified the source of a large outbreak of listeriosis. As at 2 March 2018, laboratory-confirmed cases, from January 2017, had risen to 948. Of these, 659 had been traced including 180 deaths, representing a case fatality rate of 27%.
After prolonged investigations by the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), polony sausage made by a processed meat factory operated by Enterprise Foods in Polokwane in Limpopo province was identified as the source of the infection. At least 16 environmental samples from this factory were positive for a virulent strain of Listeria monocytogenes.
Investigations are continuing as it remains possible that other facilities are involved and there is the possibility of cross contamination in food shops.
The South African Health Minister has advised people to avoid all ready-to-eat processed meats.
Legionella control in evaporative cooling systems
Evaporative cooling systems, such as cooling towers and evaporative condensers, are susceptible to colonisation by Legionella bacteria. Previous evidence has demonstrated that they can be responsible for sporadic outbreaks of infection, ranging in scale both in terms of numbers infected and severity. When such outbreaks occur, they frequently infect members of the public rather than workers and, in many cases, are a source of major public health concern.
Between 1 April 2013 and 31 August 2014, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspected 1,906 premises with evaporative cooling systems. While the majority of sites required no enforcement, material breaches were found at 625 sites, 33% of those inspected, including 409 Improvement Notices (INs) and 12 Prohibition Notices (PNs) served at 229 sites, 12.0% of those inspected.
A recently published HSE Research Report analyses the underlying causes of breaches of health and safety compliance. The main ones were:
- lack of training
- failure to maintain the cleanliness of cooling towers and the water within them
- absence of, or inadequate, risk assessments
- absence of, or insufficiently detailed, written control schemes
Further analysis looked into the reasons why cooling towers were not cleaned properly.
HSE considers that these results provide a valuable resource which can be used to focus future strategies to improve duty-holder compliance.
Source: HSE, March 2018
Wastewater analysis of European drug use
The latest findings from the largest European project in the emerging science of wastewater analysis were presented on 7 March 2018 by the Europe-wide SCORE group, in association with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The project analysed wastewater in 56 European cities in 19 European countries in March 2017 to explore the drug-taking behaviours of their inhabitants.
From Berlin to Vilnius and from Helsinki to Barcelona, the study analysed daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) over a one-week period. Wastewater from approximately 43 million people was analysed for traces of four illicit drugs: amphetamine, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine.
Wastewater based epidemiology is a rapidly developing scientific discipline with the potential for monitoring close to real-time, population-level trends in illicit drug use. By sampling a known source of wastewater, such as a sewage influent to a wastewater treatment plant, scientists can now estimate the quantity of drugs used in a community by measuring the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites excreted in urine.
The SCORE group has been conducting annual wastewater monitoring campaigns since 2011. A total of 21 cities have participated in five or more of the seven campaigns run so far, which allows for time-trend analysis of drug consumption based on wastewater testing.
The 2017 results have been published in ‘Wastewater analysis and drugs - a European multicity study’, an updated edition in the EMCDDA Perspectives on Drugs (POD) series. The POD includes an innovative interactive map and a chart-based tool allowing the user to look at geographical and temporal patterns and to zoom in on results per city. The findings offer a valuable snapshot of the drug situation in the cities involved, revealing marked regional variations in drug use patterns.
Source: EMCDDA, 7 March 2018
PHE statement on Salisbury contamination event
On 11 March 2018, Public Health England (PHE) issued an updated statement on the contamination event in Salisbury, while confirming that the immediate risk to the public remained low.
Following rigorous scientific analysis, it had been discovered that there had been some limited contamination in both the Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury. Anyone who had visited the Mill pub or Zizzi restaurant which the two affected individuals had visited were reassured that this limited exposure would not have harmed their health to date. However, there might be a very small health risk associated with repeated contact with any belongings which might have been contaminated by the substance. PHE therefore recommended a precautionary approach and advised people to clean the clothes they were wearing and any possessions they had had with them.
Those who had been in either location were being advised to:
• wash clothing they haven’t already in the washing machine
• any items which cannot be washed, and which would normally be dry cleaned, should be put in two plastic bags tied at the top and stored safely at home. PHE was currently reviewing the best way of cleaning these clothes and would provide further advice on its website
• wipe personal items such as phones, handbags and other electronic items with cleansing or baby wipes and dispose of the wipes in the bin
• wash other items such as jewellery and spectacles which cannot go in the washing machine with warm water and detergent and rinse with clean, cold water
• wash their hands thoroughly after cleaning any items
PHE reiterated that the immediate risk to those affected was extremely low and these were precautionary measures.
The UK Government has also provided additional information for those who had been in either location at the time.
Source: PHE, 11 March 2018
Climate change impacts on Scotland’s geology
A report assessing which of Scotland’s protected geological features are at risk from climate change was published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) last week. The report, possibly for the first time, analyses important geological and geomorphological features on all legally protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Scotland.
The researchers found that 97% of sites are in a favourable condition currently, with 73% at relatively low risk when it comes to climate change. However, 17% could be at moderate risk and 10% could be at high risk from climate change impacts. These impacts include increased erosion, coastal flooding, changes in rainfall and storm frequency and intensity, changes in vegetation cover, and reduced freezing of the ground in winter.
The report develops a risk-based way of assessing future impacts of climate change on geological and geomorphological landscape features in Scotland. The assessment involves a combination of current understanding of how climate change will affect the features, as well as the knowledge of the characteristics of geological and geomorphological features in Scotland. This is a new approach and could be adapted to apply elsewhere, both in the UK and abroad, in the future.
The results of this report will feed into the Scottish Government’s second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme. It is hope that this will help identify the consequences of climate change for all protected areas in Scotland and put in place mitigation or adaptation measures. The work was undertaken as part of a wider ClimateXChange project dealing with these issues, which are highlighted as actions in the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme.
Source: SNH, 8 March 2018
Environmental incidents - SEISS reports gas leak at leisure centre, Edinburgh
The Scottish Environmental Incident Surveillance System (SEISS) recorded the following incident in the past week:
• The Omni Leisure Centre in Edinburgh was closed and evacuated shortly after opening on Monday 5 March 2018 owing to a suspected gas leak. It re-opened later in the day. Source: BBC News, 5 March 2018
More detailed information is provided on SEISS, or contact either Ian Henton or Colin Ramsay at HPS on 0141 300 1100.