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Snohomish Health District investigation featured in national report

Deputy Health Officer documents local E. coli farm visit outbreak for CDC

SNOHOMISH COUNTY --- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published an epidemiological report co-authored by Jo Hofmann, MD, Deputy Health Officer for Snohomish Health District. The article, “Outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections Among Children Associated With Farm Visits---Pennsylvania and Washington, 2000,” appears in the April 20 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Dr. Hofmann and co-authors from the Washington State Department of Health, John Grendon, DVM and John Kobayashi, MD detail the hand-to-mouth transmission of E. coli O157 among children in Snohomish County who had petted farm animals. The outbreak they describe was one of the first in the United States to be associated with direct transmission of E. coli O157 from farm animals to humans. An estimated 73,500 cases of illness, 2000 hospitalizations and 60 deaths occur in this country every year as the result of E.coli O157 infection from all sources, including insufficient handwashing after contact with animals.

“Basically, the bottom line is ‘Wash your hands with soap and running water,’” said Dr. Hofmann. “These particular E. coli incidents in our county were an eye-opener for schools, parents, animal exhibitors, and operators of farms and petting zoos,” she said, “and most of them have welcomed our recommendations for providing handwashing sinks at these venues. They understand it simply makes sense.”

As part of preventing disease transmission last year, Snohomish Health District set up a total of 70 hand sinks at the Evergreen State Fair and local festivals including Taste of Edmonds and the Silvana 4-H Fair.

“Our priority is to put them where food booths and animals figure into an event,” said Rick Miklich, manager of the Food & Living Environment program at the Health District. Miklich said the self-contained washing stations are stocked with paper towels and soap. “And they’re really easy to find – just look under the big blue and white umbrellas with ‘Snohomish Health District’ written across them,” he said.

Dr. Hofmann’s article is accessible online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5015a5.htm.

Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works to improve the health of individuals, families and communities through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats.

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Attached: Sample handout of SHD recommendations for petting farms.

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