Jun
30
2018

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

A recent article has pointed out that there are 5 dangers that can lurk in beach sand. There are invisible bacteria that can pose a problem. But there are also parasites, fungi and parasitic roundworms. Here is a review of these common dangers.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: hookworms

In February 2018 a Canadian couple from Windsor/Ont. came back from a beach holiday in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. They brought with them parasites in their feet from walking barefoot on infested beaches in the Caribbean. This parasite is known to lay larvae into the sand that can survive there for several days. When beach goers walk barefoot the condition is right for the larvae to attach to the bare feet and puncture the skin. The full-grown hookworm can then develop and produce the symptoms described in the link (rash, itching, pain). The larvae of it are called “larvae migrans”, or in plain English the disease has the name “creeping eruption“. The best medicine for this condition is the anti-parasitic medication Ivermectin, the “wonder drug” from Japan. Originally developed in Japan, Ivermectin is available in the US, but not in Canada.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: Gut bacteria

A California study found that several gut bacteria were present in California beaches. Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Aeromonas, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus, human viruses (adenovirus, enterovirus, norovirus, and hepatitis A virus), amoeba, and protozoa were all cultured from beach sand. However, it is difficult to prove that any one of these pathogens would have caused any gastrointestinal upset. Just picking up one of these bugs on your skin does not mean you will come down with that particular infection. It makes sense though to wash your hands or take a shower after your beach walk. But the study noticed that there was a difference in the infection rate. There were those who only had casual contact with beach sand. Others were digging into sand or buried themselves in sand. The latter group was more likely to come down with gastrointestinal infections shortly after their beach outing.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: superbug MRSA

According to the California study cited above there were 2.7% of beach sand samples on California’s beaches that contained MRSA bugs. These are the cause of flesh-eating disease. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. When there is a cut in the skin, this antibiotic resistant bug can pose a big problem. On the other hand, it is not known whether the mere existence of MRSA on the skin actually poses a danger. Researchers do not know at the present time whether or not this will cause flesh-eating disease. But they recommend that after a beach visit it is a good idea to take a shower, as this will cleanse the skin to a large extent of any pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: fungi

The types of fungi that can hide in the beach sand belong to the group of dermatophytes. Common fungal skin infections are caused by the dermatophytes, Trichophyton rubrum, which is a very common dermatophyte, is the culprit that causes nail fungus, ringworm; jog itch and athlete’s foot. Other fungi around beaches are Aspergillus and Candida that affect mostly people with a weak immune system. Aspergillus may be responsible for lung infections and Candida for yeast infections.

Dangers that can lurk in beach sand: roundworms

Roundworms become a problem on beaches where dogs are allowed. The main problem is Toxocara canis, a parasitic roundworm. The roundworm normally lives in the gut of dogs. But dog feces from roundworm-infested dogs contain lots of eggs, which can get into soil along with the dog feces. People can inadvertently swallow contaminated sand. An Australian study found roundworm-infested samples among 266 random beach samples. They found that there were not as many positive samples when there were only adult dogs allowed on beaches. In contrast, they found a lot more positive roundworm samples in beaches were puppies were allowed.

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

Dangers That Can Lurk In Beach Sand

Conclusion

We associate pristine beaches with nature, health and relaxation. Knowing of these scientific studies we would do well to not let our guards down. Think about the ocean water: is it safe or could it be the cause of contamination of the beach sand? Then think about the beach itself. Is it a busy beach with lots of people that may contribute to contamination of the beach sand? Are dogs allowed or not? There may be dogs that defecate and deposit eggs of roundworms. Or there may be larvae from the creeping eruption, a parasitic disease. Other dangers can lurk in the sand: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that is an antibiotic resistant bacterium that can cause flesh-eating disease. Other bacteria may be buried in the sand that can cause various gastrointestinal upsets.

Being more careful around beaches

Having these thoughts in mind may help you to be more careful about the beach and shower off after you leave the beach. It is also not a bad idea to wear sandals on the beach to prevent direct contact of your skin with the beach sand. It is also obvious that the beach towel on which you lay on the sand is no longer “clean”. Wash it after your beach outing, or choose the option to relax on a cot. Wherever you travel this summer, have a safe journey!

Jul
12
2014

Food Safety Crucial In Summer

Although food safety is always important, it is particularly important in summer.   With the tropical storm Arthur recently there were many power failures and much spoilt food due to non-functioning refrigerators had to be discarded.

When there are parties and food is outside in warmer temperatures it does not take long before salmonella or enteric bacteria multiply in mayonnaise which acts like a growth medium. Ref.1 points out that traveler’s diarrhea is common in development countries. Bugs such as Shigella, enterotoxigenic E. coli, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella species and others are the most common bacteria. But the rotavirus subtypes and the parasites Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium species and Cyclospora cayetanensis are also frequent offenders that make people sick, make them vomit or cause diarrhea.

How is food poisoning caused?

Causes of food poisoning vary from food to food and between developed countries to developing countries. Bacterial contamination of meats or poultry is particularly common and prompt refrigeration at 4 degrees Celsius or lower (38 F or lower) is important to prevent bacteria from multiplying. People with contaminated hands that handle food in the retail grocery business can introduce bacteria or noroviruses into the food chain. Cross contamination such as cutting meat on a cutting board and subsequently cutting lettuce for a salad that is uncooked is a common source of food poisoning. While the bacteria or viruses of the meat that was cut and subsequently cooked is now safe to eat, the salad with the bacteria or viruses is certainly causing food poisoning. As the link above shows, 75% of oysters harvested around the shelves in Great Britain are contaminated with norovirus. It is important therefore to boil the oysters well to inactivate the norovirus; half cooked or raw oysters are simply not acceptable.

Food Safety Crucial In Summer

Food Safety Crucial In Summer

Pay attention to food preparation:

  1. Before you prepare a meal, make sure that all of the ingredients that come from packages have an expiry date well beyond the date when you prepare the meal. Anything that is beyond the expiry date may have a larger number of bacteria or viruses in them that could transfer into the rest of the meal.
  2. Keep in mind that during the summer outside temperatures are well beyond room temperature and it does not take long for bacteria to multiply at higher temperatures. The danger zone is between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C) where bacterial growth can occur. On many occasions scientists have measured that bacterial growth can double every 20 minutes, so within only 1 or two hours food such as mayonnaise, milk or eggs are spoilt!
  3. Never leave barbecued meats lying around and only deep freeze them later. When you thaw them in preparation for another meal in the future, you are dealing with spoilt food that already has bacteria in it as they grew before you have frozen the spoilt meat. Spoilt meat remains spoilt meat, even when you have stored it in the freezer! Throw it out.

Interrupt the infectious chain:

The key in food preparation and cooking as well as in safe refrigeration storage is to interrupt the infectious chain. If you get meat from the store, cook it thoroughly so it is safe to eat. The cooking process will destroy bacteria.

Drink bottled or boiled water. Avoid ice cubes, as they may have been prepared with contaminated water.  Avoid eating raw food. Eat salad only after it was thoroughly washed with clean water. In development countries or areas of questionable water supply go without salad until you enter a country where general hygienic standards are observed. Peel fruit yourself; don’t eat fruit salads prepared by others. Generally speaking food should be eaten hot. Avoid raw and poorly cooked seafood; invariably this is a risk for exposing yourself to unknown bacteria or viruses.

Eating in a restaurant is not as safe as eating at someone’s home.

When you think about summer recreation, think about swimming pools; think also about recreational pools that may also be contaminated. If there is no appropriate chlorination equipment present, it is unsafe to use that pool.

Treatment of traveler’s diarrhea:

If you should get abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting you likely got traveler’s diarrhea. If you can, see a physician to confirm the diagnosis. In Mexico you often can go directly to the pharmacist and get antibacterial medication over the counter. Often a 3 day course of fluoroquinolones (e.g. Cipro), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, azithromycin, or rifaximin is effective.

Whether the antibiotic is effective depends on the area where you travel, which also determines the resistance pattern. Further, it depends on what organisms are present in the contaminated food or environment and it depends on the patient’s age. For children below 16 the recommended antibiotic is azithromycin, for persons older than 16 ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is used (Ref.1).

Prevention of food poisoning:

We can do a lot to avoid food poisoning. First of all, we need to wash our hands after having used the washroom and before we handle food. Avoid cross contamination as already described. Wash your hands again when you are finished handling raw meat, particularly hamburger meat. Make sure that meat is cooked until it is completely through. You may want to use a food thermometer, which will assist you to know that the meat is thoroughly cooked; as this link shows pork is done at 140°F, but chicken and ground poultry should be cooked until the meat temperature reaches 165°F. Ground beef requires 160°F. As the link shows, it is safer to include a 3-minute rest time following the reaching of the target temperature to ensure that no more live bacteria or viruses are left in the cooked meat.

More information on food safety: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/food-safety/

Conclusion:

Have a safe summer and enjoy backyard BBQ’s following the simple rules mentioned before. Should you travel, make sure it is safe and you prevent traveler’s diarrhea. The principles of safe food handling and food preparation are simple and can be learnt by anyone. Make sure any unused food is refrigerated right after the meal, not more than two hours later. Otherwise old food should be discarded.

References:

1. Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed.Copyright 2011, Saunders.

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Mar
01
2003

Garlic Component Effective Against Head Lice

The Jan. 21, 2003 edition of the Medical Post published an article about some Argentine research involving the active ingredient of garlic, allicin.

Dr. Juan Barboza and his collegues from the University of Cuyo in Mendoza started their research first with plant lice, as they had been approached by farmers to help them find a natural way to fight lice infestation of their crop .

Of the various chemical compounds in garlic it was the allicin compounds that were most effective in asphyxiating common pests, particularly plant lice. Subsequently they were experimenting with head lice formulations. Shortly after there was a severe outbreak of headlice infestation at the day care center of the university.

This was an opportunity for the researchers to test the efficiency of the new formulation of a mixture of allicin with a mint-scented cream. With only one application of this formulation there was a 96% reduction of the number of head lice within only 1 week!

Garlic Component Effective Against Head Lice

Garlic Component Effective Against Head Lice

Here is a link to other useful hints about head lice.

Last edited December 10, 2012

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