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Hurricane Safety: 6 scary, infectious illnesses you can catch from floodwater

Hurricanes can leave behind tons of damage, including flooding. But did you know that treading through the wrong kind of water can cause illnesses or even death?

Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.

Here are six sicknesses you should beware of in the aftermath:

Diarrheal diseases

Drinking or eating anything that has come in contact with floodwaters can lead to cryptosporidiosis, E. coli or giardiasis. While cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are brought on by parasites, E. coli is caused by bacteria.

Symptoms from each include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Cryptosporidiosis, however, can even be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer. 

Wound infections

Open wounds and rashes that are exposed to floodwater can cause tetanus or Vibrio vulnificus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection, and it can enter the body through breaks in the skin like a cut.

>> 10 tips to stay safe when returning home after a natural disaster

Vibrio vulnificus, another bacteria, can be contracted the same way. Many people become infected by consuming undercooked shellfish or exposing an injury to brackish or salt water.

Other illnesses 

People affected by flooded areas can also get trench foot. It occurs when your feet are wet for long periods of time. It can cause pain, swelling and numbness.

>> Read more trending news 

You should also be aware of chemical hazards from materials that may have spilled into the water. And be cautious of electrical hazards, since there are puddles that may be electrified due to fallen power lines.

Curious about other diseases you can catch? Take a look at the full list at CDC’s official website

Deadly salmonella outbreak linked to kosher chicken

Salmonella has sickened 17 people in four states and one person has died, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight people reportedly were so sick that they had to be hospitalized. 

>> Backyard chickens, ducks linked to salmonella outbreaks in 44 states, CDC says

The illnesses have been linked to kosher chicken, officials said. Several people reported getting sick after eating Empire-brand kosher chicken. Empire is the largest producer of kosher poultry in the United States. 

Four states have reported people who have fallen ill: New York has had 11 cases and one death; four were sickened in Pennsylvania; and Maryland and Virginia also have reported cases.

The earliest illness linked to this outbreak began Sept. 25, 2017, and the most recent case began June 4 of this year.

>> Salmonella: Signs and symptoms of infection

Salmonella illness usually begins between 12 and 72 hours after consuming the bacteria, health officials said. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps and can last four to seven days.

Children younger than 5, adults older than 65 and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness when exposed to salmonella.

The CDC estimates that salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths in the United States every year. Food is the source for about 1 million of these illnesses.

>> Read more trending news 

Dr. Laura Gieraltowski with the CDC said: "CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating kosher chicken products or that retailers stop selling raw kosher chicken products. Chicken including kosher chicken is safe to eat if it's handled carefully and cooked thoroughly." 

Always handle raw chicken carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning. This outbreak is a reminder that raw chicken products can have germs that spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick.

Why whooping cough is making a comeback

After a week with a dry cough, Karen Andes’ son started experiencing middle-of-the-night coughing fits so severe, he couldn’t talk. He returned home from his first trip to the urgent care clinic in mid-July with an inhaler and a five-day course of steroids.

The coughing fits didn’t abate, and after a few days, the Decatur, Georgia, teenager jumped out of bed and got his mom’s attention by clapping his hands, unable to get any words out. He gasped for air, tears running down his face.

>> On AJC.com: 5 things every parent should know about immunization

His mother took him to another doctor, who suggested he may have reflux.

But a combination of Andes’ medical background (she’s an assistant professor of global health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University) and a mother’s intuition told her something else was tormenting her son — pertussis, also known as whooping cough. The family requested the child’s name not be published. 

Whooping cough, a potentially life-threatening childhood illness, all but disappeared in the 1940s after a vaccine was developed. But in recent decades, the illness has been making a comeback. Changes in the vaccine and waning immunity are likely contributing to the resurgence of the illness, according to experts.

In recent years, there have been outbreaks not seen since the 1950s.

In 2012, the United States had the highest number of whooping cough cases in more than 50 years with 48,277 reported cases and 20 deaths. Most of the deaths occurred among infants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Georgia, there were 318 cases in 2012, which included no deaths. Since then, there have been three whooping cough-related deaths (two in 2013 and one in 2016) in Georgia, and all of the deaths involved babies.

Last year, there was a total of 163 reported cases of whooping cough in Georgia, according to the CDC. And this year through Aug. 21, there has been a total of 102 cases, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

>> On AJC.com: What you need to know about mumps

The highly contagious respiratory illness is not always on the radar of doctors and can be mistaken for a cold, bronchitis, reflux. The Georgia Department of Health said it’s not uncommon for someone to see two, even three doctors before getting a proper diagnosis.

Andes insisted on getting her son tested for whooping cough. Results from a nose culture came back positive.

“At first, I felt relieved, and even a bit proud of myself,” said Andes, “but then the reality sunk in that we may be in for more difficult nights.”

The older vaccine for whooping cough was phased out in the late 1990s. It carried a high risk of serious but temporary side effects like pain, and swelling at the site of injection, as well as serious complications such as febrile convulsions, which are fits or seizures caused by a sudden change in a child’s body temperature, and loss of consciousness. One study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente’s Vaccine Study center in Oakland, Calif., found the newer pertussis vaccine, while safer and with fewer side effects than the older version, is not as effective.

The 2016 study from Kaiser Permanente’s Vaccine Study Center found that the booster vaccine known as Tdap provides moderate protection against whooping cough during the first year after vaccination, but its effectiveness wanes to less than 9 percent after four years among teenagers who have received only a newer form of the whooping cough vaccine (known as acellular pertussis vaccine) as infants and children.

>> Vaccines help prevent flu deaths in children, CDC study finds

Pertussis can cause serious illness in people of all ages and can even be life-threatening, especially in babies. About half of babies under 1 year of age who get pertussis need treatment in a hospital, according to the CDC. The illness can have a lasting effect on lung function, leaving people with shortness of breath.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Georgia, found in a new study while some people lose immunity relatively quickly, the vaccine can be protective for many decades. The study, published in a March issue of Science Translational Medicine, also found the dwindling number of people still alive who survived pertussis infections in the days before vaccination, and therefore gained lifelong immunity, is also playing a role in the resurgence. When the vaccine was first introduced in the 1940s, there were very high rates of vaccination, which led to an overall decrease in transmission.

Senior author Pejman Rohani, who has a joint appointment in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and the Odum School of Ecology, said the number of people who are susceptible to contracting pertussis is slowly rising — setting the stage for an increase in the number of new cases, especially in older individuals. This is known as the “end of the honeymoon” period, he said.

And even though the effectiveness of vaccines may wane over time, experts say people should still make sure to get them. Skipping the vaccines, Rohani said, “would be a terrible idea, especially the routine scheduled and maternal vaccination.”

>> CDC warns of measles in 21 states, including North Carolina, Florida

He added that researchers are still working on deciding whether people should get more frequent booster vaccinations.

Meanwhile, Andes’ son, who was fully vaccinated against whooping cough, completed a round of antibiotics and is doing better. But he still has a lingering cough, and a full recovery could take months.

After the diagnosis, Andes notified City of Decatur schools about her son’s illness. It was over summer break, but he was participating in a high school band camp and was around other high school students. City of Decatur Schools spokesperson Courtney Burnett said a letter was sent to parents of students at Decatur High School informing them of the illness. Burnett said the school system is not aware of any other whooping cough cases.

Andes, who also got whooping cough (likely from her son) but was treated early before symptoms got severe, is sharing her family’s story to help raise awareness about whooping cough.

She wants families to know the following: don’t assume you can’t get whooping cough because you’ve been vaccinated; whooping cough not only affects babies; early treatment is key (not only may it help reduce the severity or the length of the illness, it prevents spreading the illness to others); and whooping cough “doesn’t always whoop,” particularly in adolescents and adults. Her son burped for air after each attack. She checked his fingernails — and they were purplish-blue near the cuticles because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

“Each episode was very scary. It was absolutely terrifying,” she said. “Our journey is not over yet, but I have learned a lot.”

Vaccination recommendations

The CDC recommends pertussis (also called whooping cough) vaccines for people of all ages. Babies and children should get five doses of DTaP for maximum protection. DTaP is a vaccine that helps children younger than age 7 develop immunity to three deadly diseases caused by bacteria: diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis).

Health care professionals give a dose of DTaP at 2, 4 and 6 months, at 15 through 18 months, and again at 4 through 6 years. They give children a booster dose known as Tdap to preteens at 11 or 12 years old.

>> Read more trending news 

Teens or adults who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen should get one dose. Getting Tdap is especially important for pregnant women during the third trimester of each pregnancy. It’s also important that those who care for babies are up-to-date with pertussis vaccination. 

You can get the Tdap booster dose no matter when you got your last regular tetanus and diphtheria booster shot (Td). Also, you need to get Tdap even if you got pertussis vaccines as a child or have been sick with pertussis in the past.

The impact of anti-vaxxers on the comeback of whooping cough

Even though children who haven’t received DTaP vaccines are at least eight times more likely to get whooping cough than children who received all five recommended doses of DTaP, they are not the driving force behind the large-scale outbreaks or epidemics, according to the CDC. Even so, their parents are putting their children at greater risk of getting whooping cough and possibly spreading the illness to others.

Whooping cough: Know the signs

Whooping cough starts like the common cold, with a runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe a mild cough or fever. But after one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin and can include many rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound. It’s important to note not everyone with pertussis will cough and many who cough will not “whoop.” Babies may not cough at all though. Instead, they have trouble breathing.

Source: CDC

What to know about new cervical cancer screening guidelines

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cancer in women worldwide.

This week, the United States Preventative Services Task Force updated its 2012 recommendations regarding cervical cancer screenings.

>> Read more trending news 

The update, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, researchers from the University of California-Davis and Kaiser Permanente Northwest emphasized adequate screenings, “regardless of which strategy is used.”

“Our biggest challenge is reaching women who have not been screened,” UC Davis’ Joy Melnikow, who led HPV testing research that helped inform the updated guidelines, said in a statement.

Related: Women who use IUDs may have reduced risk of cervical cancer, study says

Most cervical cancer is caused by HPV, or the human papillomavirus. The most significant update from the original recommendations is that women ages 30 to 35 have an additional option when it comes to screenings. They can opt to undergo an HPV test every five years, a Pap test every three years or both every five years.

Before this week, researchers recommended women in that age group receive a pap every three years, with HPV testing every five years.

Those aged 21 to 29, however, should not be tested for HPV to help screen for cervical cancer. Instead, they should only receive a Pap test every three years.

The new guidelines for cervical cancer screenings are below.

Women under age 21

  • Screening not recommended.

Women between ages 21-29

  • Should be screened every three years via a Pap test.
  • HPV testing not recommended.

Women between ages 30-65

  • Can either get an HPV test every five years, a Pap test every three years, or both every five years.

Women older than age 65 with recent negative tests/low risk

  • Screening not recommended, but patients should continue visiting their doctor on a regular basis.

Women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the cervix and no history of precancerous lesion or cervical cancer

  • Screening not recommended.

“These recommendations do not apply to individuals who have been diagnosed with a high-grade precancerous cervical lesion or cervical cancer,” the article said. “These recommendations also do not apply to individuals with in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol or those who have a compromised immune system (eg, women living with HIV).”

While rates of new cervical cancers in the U.S. have declined in recent years, the number of new cases worldwide continues to rise as the population grows and ages.

Scientists with Florida Atlantic University and the University of Arizona estimate that 13,240 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,170 cervical cancer deaths are estimated to occur this year. They warned in an editorial that accompanies the new guidelines that the majority of those deaths will be “among poor women, women from communities of color, non-US-born women, and women living in rural and remote settings” who have limited access to preventive care.

5 things every parent should know about immunization

Within the first few months of your child's life, your pediatrician will likely start talking to you about immunizations. Even if your house is stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, it's important to know what options are out there to keep your kid safe from diseases that could have harmful consequences.

>> On AJC.com: What you need to know about mumps

With all of the talk out there about the pros and cons of getting your child immunized, here are five things you need to know about how the process works and why doctors recommend it:

What is immunization? 

The World Health Organization defines immunization as the process that makes a person immune or resistant to an infectious disease. The most common way to achieve this is by giving the person a vaccine. Over the past 200 or so years, doctors have been able to use vaccines to fight diseases that used to kill millions of people, including young children, every year.

How does immunization work? 

Vaccines are usually given through a needle injection, though Verywell noted there are some that can be given through the mouth or the nose.

According to WebMD, once a vaccine enters the body, it helps the immune system develop antibodies that fight the virus or bacteria that causes that specific illness. (The process can take a few weeks, so your child won't instantly become immune.) The next time your child runs into that virus or bacteria, his body will have the tools it needs to fight off the illness.

Does my child really need to be vaccinated?

If you plan to enroll your child in a daycare or school, there may be minimum vaccination requirements before they can get started. According to he National Vaccine Information Center, exceptions can be made based on certain medical or religious grounds, but an application is required.

If you don't have any medical or religious concerns, vaccines are strongly encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control to help slow the progress of infections. When more people get vaccinated against a certain disease, outbreaks can be prevented because the germs won't be able to travel as fast through the population. This is called community immunity.

>> Read more trending news 

Which vaccines are recommended for kids?

The CDC website lists 16 potentially harmful diseases that their recommended vaccines can protect against. Those diseases are:

Each vaccine should be taken during a specific age range, so be sure to talk to your child's doctor to find out the right time to bring them in for their shots.

What are the risks involved with vaccines?

KidsHealth says the most common reactions to vaccines are fever and redness, swelling and soreness where the shot was given. In rare cases, patients have had seizures or severe allergic reactions. If you're concerned about side effects, Parents Magazine has some tips for easing the sting and making your child's first immunization experience as comfortable as possible.

If you have questions about vaccines or side effects, it's best to talk to your child's doctor.

Homeless, quadriplegic veteran living outside VA hospital struggles to get health care

A Navy veteran who is a quadriplegic has many health care needs. But he – and the people trying to help him – say the Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle continues to reject him for care. 

>> Watch the news report here

Mike Mikesell of Washington state is 49 years old. He’s a Navy veteran who was honorably discharged, according to a document from the Department of Veterans Affairs office. 

He needs medical service so often he's living in a tent just feet from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Mikesell said he had a good-paying job, but then he got very sick and became homeless.

Mikesell said he worked at Boeing until he developed an infection while on a trip to Mexico in 2016. 

“I went from that to this overnight,” Mikesell said. The infection spread to his spine and left him a quadriplegic. 

“I’m dead from the armpits down,” he said. 

Shortly after that, he lost his housing. 

>> Grieving military mom says coins stolen from son's grave: 'It just makes me sick'

In October 2017, he started living in a tent just outside the VA Hospital in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. 

“I can’t leave the hospital because there’s always some ailment happening. It wouldn’t be this way if I could wash up in a bathroom,” Mikesell said.

Since becoming homeless, his situation has continued to decline. His reclining electric wheelchair is broken, and now he struggles with a manual one that doesn’t recline. 

“I’ve been sleeping in this chair for a long time,” Mikesell said. 

“It’s torturing me not to give me an electric wheelchair. I can barely move myself along the ground with this thing and it’s really made things really difficult just trying to get into the hospital. I have that hill to go up,” he said. 

In June, Linda Soriano learned about Mikesell’s story. Soriano lives in Lynnwood and tries to help people who are homeless.

“It hurts me a lot,” Soriano said after learning about Mikesell’s story. 

She and a friend, Pam Keeley, shared it on Facebook with Mikesell’s consent

>> See the post here

They detailed what Mikesell is going through – how he needs a catheter, a colostomy bag and deals with chronic infections. 

“He suffers. He suffers!” Soriano said. “We’re not asking to treat this man like royalty. But that they would pay more attention and have a little more empathy and compassion.” 

The Facebook post has been shared more than 11,000 times as of Wednesday evening. But Soriano points out despite all the shares, Mikesell is still living in a tent outside the VA. 

“What does it take? Does this man have to die?” Soriano said. 

She and Keeley contacted the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and a staff member helped Mikesell secure a visit with a doctor and got him a housing voucher. 

>> Police kill Vietnam vet who killed intruder attacking grandson

But just hours later, Mikesell was back out on the street. 

“He’s a high-needs individual, and many of our services, including the veterans' hospital, are not set up to take up these high-need individuals. He now is back on the streets and I think it is a tragic situation,” Jayapal said. “Mike’s conditions – they make it challenging for him to get housing. So even though he has a housing voucher, we can’t get him in.” 

She plans to work on legislation that would bring more federal money to high-needs veterans. 

But Mikesell can't wait for legislation. 

He’s worried he won’t survive another winter.

“Hopeless,” Mikesell said with tears in his eyes. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” 

The VA said Mikesell needs to sign a consent form before they can say anything about his case. As of Wednesday night, KIRO7’s Deedee Sun got Mikesell to sign the form and sent it to the hospital. The VA said it will provide more detailed commentary about why it is not able to provide the level of care Mikesell believes he qualifies for and deserves. 

A spokesperson for the VA said the hospital will be contacting Mikesell directly to address his concerns. 

>> Read more trending news 

In the meantime, it sent this statement: 

“We care passionately about the health and well-being of our Veterans. We take pride in providing each of our patients with evidence-based medicine, and in our ability to help them understand the recommended courses of care as well as the programs and services available to them. Ultimately, it is the choice of each of our Veterans about the care they pursue. And we respect their rights and privacy about the choices they make. Veterans can find out more info about our services and programs by visit our website: www.pugetsound.va.gov.” 

Jayapal said she is also working with Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who represents the district where Mikesell lives, to follow up with his case. 

Chipotle illnesses: More than 400 report sickness after eating at Ohio restaurant

An Ohio Chipotle Mexican Grill has reopened after reports of illness caused the restaurant to voluntarily shut its doors Monday.

>> Wraps, salads sold at Kroger, Trader Joe's recalled over possible parasite

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Delaware County Health District had received 413 inquiries from customers who believed the Powell restaurant’s food made them sick, said the district’s public information officer, Traci Whittaker.

“Our staff has been fielding calls all day long yesterday, so what happens when we get calls is we have to follow up and investigate,” Whittaker said.

>> On DaytonDailyNews.com: Chipotle website crashes for some customers ordering free guacamole

The cause of the illnesses is still unknown, as Whittaker said that investigation takes a significant amount of time. If everything went by the books, the health district would know the potential pathogen by Friday, but it never goes by the books, she said.

First the health district employees have to follow up and interview all of the customers who called, and if they’re willing to provide a stool sample, the health district will send them a kit, pick it up and send it to a lab for testing. More than 30 stool kits have been delivered to those who reported illness.

>> On DaytonDailyNews.com: MoviePass frustrates customers with higher cost, fewer movies

The Delaware County Health District will also test leftover food samples some of the customers provided.

The restaurant at 9733 Sawmill Parkway reopened Tuesday after correcting one critical and one noncritical violation related to pinto beans and lettuce being kept at the correct temperature. The restaurant threw all of its food away as well, Whittaker said.

“Our inspection saw no reason for them not to reopen,” she said.

The investigation will continue into next week, she said.

>> Read more trending news 

“We want to look at the whole big picture of what the potential pathogen is, where it came from, what is making these customers sick,” she said

Whittaker said if others were affected and have not yet called the health district, they should do so immediately.

Ron Simon and Associates, along with co-counsel DiCello Levitt and Casey, has filed the first lawsuit in the case against the restaurant.

Wraps, salads sold at Kroger, Trader Joe's recalled over possible parasite

Have you recently picked up a salad or wrap from the grocery store? It could make you sick, according to a new health alert.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service said Monday that "beef, pork and poultry salad and wrap products" recently distributed by Indianapolis-based Caito Foods may be contaminated with a parasite called cyclospora.

>> On USDA.gov: See the full list of recalled products

The products, produced July 15-18, have "sell by" dates of July 18-23 and were sold at Kroger, Trader Joe's, Walgreens and other retailers across the country, WRTV reported. The recalled items also have an establishment number of EST. 39985 or P-39985, the FSIS said.

>> On USDA. gov: See the labels here

Health officials issued the alert after Caito Foods' lettuce supplier, Fresh Express, said "the chopped romaine that is used to manufacture some of their salads and wraps was being recalled," according to the FSIS.

>> RELATED STORY: Listeria concerns prompt recall of grab-and-go sandwiches in 11 states

Symptoms of cyclospora infection include watery diarrhea with frequent bowel movements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its incubation period could last up to 14 days, officials said.

>> Read more trending news 

If you have any of the recalled products, you should throw them away or return them to the store, officials said. If you think you are sick, visit your health care provider.

Read more here.

Man's limbs amputated after dog's lick likely caused bacterial infection

A Wisconsin man's limbs were amputated after doctors said he contracted a bacterial infection – likely from a dog's lick.

>> RELATED STORY: You probably shouldn't let your dog lick your face

According to WITI, Greg Manteufel, 48, of West Bend, believed he had the flu when he went to the emergency room in late June. But doctors later determined that capnocytophaga, a type of bacteria found in dog saliva, had caused the infection that left him bruised, dropped his blood pressure and decreased blood flow to his limbs.

To keep Manteufel alive, doctors had to amputate both legs to the knees and both arms to the mid-forearm, according to a mid-July update to a GoFundMe page for the family. That campaign has raised more than $27,000.

Manteufel's wife, Dawn, told WITI that her husband has "been around dogs all of his life."

>> Read more trending news 

"We can't wrap our heads around it," she said.

Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, who specializes in infectious diseases, told WITI that "99 percent of people that have dogs will never have this issue."

Read more here.

Longhorned tick: New invasive species found in more states

new invasive tick species has been confirmed in Pennsylvania for the first time, just weeks after agriculture officials found one in North Carolina.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Lyme disease cases on the rise: What is it, and how to avoid it

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, recent testing found an Asian longhorned tick on a deer in Pennsylvania’s Centre County, where Penn State is.

This particular species is tough to tell apart from others.

>> ‘Very aggressive tick,’ whose bite causes red meat allergies not a hoax, CDC says

As the name suggests, they have horns, but they're so tiny that you can't see them without a microscope.

The discovery is not good news for Pennsylvania’s already bad tick problem.

>> 10 ways to prevent tick bites on people and pets

The deer ticks that are prevalent in Pennsylvania are carriers of Lyme disease, and Pennsylvania has consistently had the most cases of Lyme disease in the country.

>> Lyme disease: 7 questions about tick-borne infections

These Asian ticks haven't been found to carry Lyme yet, but scientists are concerned they could.

Scientists say the tick does carry a disease that has infected hogs and cattle in Asia, but they have not found any disease-carrying "longhorns" in the United States.

>> Read more trending news 

The Asian ticks, which made their first U.S. appearance in New Jersey last year, have since been found in several other states, such as Arkansas, New York, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, the Tribune-Review reported.

Efforts to eradicate the ticks have failed.

The female ticks can reproduce asexually and can lay up to 2,000 eggs after feeding on a single host.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

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