Category Archives: Uncategorized

Trailing Off of the Epidemic Curve?

The latest CDC report on the ongoing Salmonella serotype Saintpaul suggests that we may indeed be nearing the end.  Here is the epidemic curve as of 28 July:

28 July Salmonella Epidemic Curve

While there is certainly still the possibility of more cases appearing that have not yet been reported or another introduction (see previous post), the fact that the epidemic curve has continued to trail off in two successive weeks is good news.

The epidemiological evidence continues to implicate fresh jalapeño chiles grown in México.  As of 28 July, 1307 cases have been reported since 1 April 2008. Nearly every state in the union has reported at least one case from this outbreak, as can be seen on this map:

CDC Map of Salmonella Cases 07/28/08

Again the most likely victims (at least to report illness) are 20-29 year-old adults while the least likely to report illness are 10-19 year-olds and those over 80.  Once again, I suggest that this is consistent with a vehicle consumed along with alcoholic beverages. Salsa.  Though contaminated jalapeños (or other produce) could, of course, make their way into other foods as well. The Saintpaul strain was relatively rare before this outbreak, leading CDC to suggest the following:

The previous rarity of this strain and the distribution of illnesses in all U.S. regions suggest that the implicated food is distributed throughout much of the country. Because many persons with Salmonella illness do not have a stool specimen tested, it is likely that many more illnesses have occurred than those reported. 

Let’s hope that this outbreak is really coming to an end.  It would be nice if we could identify the source of the infection.  Foodborne disease is an important public health concern that probably does not receive the attention it should.  A 1999 paper by Mead and colleagues (admittedly now a bit long in the tooth) estimated that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.  It is not hard to imagine that in the 10 years since this study the foodborne disease burden has increased in the U.S.  Time for another study, I’d say.

Unusual Editorial

This is something you don’t typically see in the editorial pages of the New York Times, viz., advocacy for reinstating US Air Force investigations of unidentified flying objects.  Pope has a point; closed-mind policies are probably never a good idea.  This is not to say that we have little green men coming to cut crop circles or probe guys in pickup trucks on rural highways.  But if there are things in the air the identity of which we don’t know, maybe we should try to figure out what they are?  I guess I’d rather see us fix health care and improve infrastructure first, but I am generally in favor of ridding ourselves of self-induced blind spots.

American Inequality and Tax Evasion

There is a terrific new short film from the American News Project on tax evasion by the super rich.  The piece documents Senate hearings on the use of offshore banking as a mechanism for tax evasion by extremely wealthy Americans.  It also includes footage of world’s richest man and voice for moral sanity among the rich, Warren Buffett disclosing that the tax rate he paid in 2007 is nearly half that paid by the hourly-wage earning office staff at Berkshire Hathaway. Wow.

Bush Justice and Sex Trafficking

George W. Bush needs all the help he can get with his historical legacy.  It’s shameful that the Bush Justice Department is trying to scuttle tough new anti-trafficking legislation, particularly considering that this is an issue Mr. Bush actually cares about.  It seems that lawyers in the Justice Department believe that girls and women endure the humiliations and dangers of sex work because they want to be doing it.  They have made a choice to join the oldest profession as it were. Sounds an awful lot like the she-was-asking-for-it defense.  It’s not often that I agree with the opinion of a Discovery Institute fellow, but Miller’s Op-Ed piece calling out the inexcusable position taken by the Justice Department is something I can get behind.


Swingin' on the Extemporaneous Flippity-Flop

While running seemingly interminable errands this past Saturday, I listened to NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.  Sub Pop Records president, Jonathan Poneman, was the guest for the Not-My-Job segment and related a story in which a heroic employee at Sub Pop, Megan Jasper, simply made up a lingo when a New York Times reporter called to ask how the kids were talking in Seattle back in 1992.  Listen here. Beautiful.  As someone who spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest throughout the nineties but lived in the rather more uptight Northeast, this story provided particular amusement for me.  The original NYT piece is here.  See page three for the Lexicon. Score.  (though a harsh realm for the reporter who couldn’t be troubled to go to Seattle to fact check)

Until next time, rock on you dishes and lamestains alike…

Fife and Drum

Man, this is something pretty amazing that I missed when I lived in Mississippi briefly in 1991-1992.  I heard fife and drum every 4th of July growing up in a New England town with a strong sense of its colonial heritage.  It didn’t sound like this.  This amazing film produced by Bill Ferris, Judy Peiser, David Evans in 1972 and distributed by the Center for Southern Folklore is available in its entirety on