Category: Human Disease Outbreak


By: Nancy Ooki, University of Hawaii at Manoa

The recent attention to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus serves as an excellent opportunity to remind our stakeholders of easy, simple actions that can impact their health greatly. Guidelines have been released with the goal of preventing the spread of this virus in the community that include one of the most basic best practices – hand washing. For the coronavirus, the CDC recommends citizens wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or if soap and water are not available, to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Handwashing has been critical in helping prevent the spread of illness and disease, but as an everyday activity, its importance is often forgotten. The current news headlines provide a great opening to remind community members of the process and best practices associated with handwashing.

In addition to combating the spread of disease, handwashing can help to keep food safe and reduce food-borne illness as well. Consumers should wash their hands before and after eating. Farmworkers should follow farm safety guidelines for handwashing.

In keeping with food safety issues, consumers and food preparers should also wash their produce prior to serving or consumption. A growing outbreak of Rat Lungworm disease in Hawai‘i (and found in Louisiana in addition to other countries) has prompted a renewed interest in produce washing practices. The disease can infect humans through the ingestion of raw vegetables contaminated with the rat lungworm larvae, which means that produce should be examined thoroughly prior to consumption. Consumers should wash their hands, then separate and rinse produce. It is also important to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces.

Additional resources and lesson plans on hand and produce washing are listed below. Use this opportunity to educate and remind stakeholders of the best practices. Good, safe food handling and hygiene practices are important all the time, but the occasional reminder at the right time can make a big difference.

Handwashing Reminders

Wash your hands:

  • Before and after you eat
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After handling animals or animal waste – including pets
  • After playing or working outside
  • After changing diapers or handling a baby’s bottom
  • Anytime your hands are dirty

On the farm or in food production areas, wash:

  • Before entering and returning to the field or the packing line
  • Before touching clean produce
  • Before putting on new gloves
  • After working with soil
  • After disposing of rotten produce
  • After handling garbage
  • After smoking or doing other activities that dirty your hands
  • After touching bare human body parts
  • After handling animals and animal waste

Credit: Clean Hands Save Lives! University of Hawai‘i Cooperative Extension (2012, January) Retrieved from: https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/new/Newsletters/CleanHands.pdf

Handwashing Resources

Cornoavirus Resources

Produce Washing Reminders

Inspect produce for

  • Obvious signs of soil or damage
  • Prior to cutting, slicing, or dicing.
  • Cut away affected areas or do not use

Wash produce before serving/cutting using

  • Continuous running water
  • Chemical disinfectants

Do not

  • Soak produce or store in standing water
  • Rewash packaged produce labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed.”

Wash thoroughly with hot soapy water

  • All equipment
  • Utensils
  • Food contact surfaces

Credit: Best Practices Handling Produce in Schools United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (retrieve 2020, February) from: https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/Food_Safety_Produce_Best_practices.pdf

Produce Washing Resources

Rat Lungworm Resources


Reported this morning was the 2012-2013 Human Influenza is a pandemic, it is not a pandemic but  an epidemic in many states.  The Centers for Disease Control  (CDC) released this statement late last week explaining why they believe the influenza is so severe this year:

“One factor that may indicate increased severity this season is that the predominant circulating type of influenza virus is influenza A (H3N2) viruses, which account for about 76 percent of the viruses reported. Bresee explains “typically ‘H3N2 seasons’ have been more severe, with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, but we will have to see how the season plays out.”

So far this season, most (91%) of the influenza viruses that have been analyzed at CDC are like the viruses included in the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine. The match between the vaccine virus and circulating viruses is one factor that impacts how well the vaccine works. But Bresee cautions that other factors are involved.

“While influenza vaccination offers the best protection we have against influenza, it’s still possible that some people may become ill despite being vaccinated,” says Bresee. “Health care providers and the public should remember that influenza antiviral medications are a second line of defense against influenza.” (For more information about why people may become sick with influenza after vaccination, see 2012-2013 season Questions and Answers.)”

The CDC recommends three steps to prevent the flu and they are, vaccination, take everyday preventive actions, and if prescribed by your doctor take flu antivirals.  For more detailed information see CDC link on these three steps.

 

Kim Cassel