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MMWR – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

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1. Using Online Restaurant Reviews to Identify Unreported Complaints of Foodborne Illness — New York City, 2012–2013

Levi Fishman, Deputy Press Secretary
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
347-396-4177
Pressoffice@health.nyc.gov

Review websites and social media platforms can be valuable sources of public-health data. By developing software programs to analyze and review data, health departments can potentially identify unreported outbreaks of foodborne illness and other public health hazards. This is especially useful in cities where most online complaints are not being reported to the local health department. Using online restaurant reviews from the website Yelp, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) recently announced the results of a pilot project in which they were able to identify hundreds of unreported cases of foodborne illness in New York City, including three restaurant-related outbreaks. Working with Columbia University and Yelp, the Health Department used specially designed software to review approximately 294,000 Yelp restaurant reviews over a nine month period. Nearly 500 people had described an episode consistent with foodborne illness, but only 3 percent of these incidents had been reported to New York City’s non-emergency 311 services. The findings suggest that online restaurant reviews can help identify unreported outbreaks of foodborne illness and other public health hazards.

2. Rabies Death Attributed to Exposure in Central America with Symptom Onset in a U.S. Detention Facility — Texas, 2013

CDC Media Relations
404-639-3286

While human-to-human transmission of rabies is thought to be extremely rare, direct contact with saliva, tears, or nervous tissues from rabies patients could potentially transmit this nearly universally fatal disease. Rabies is vaccine preventable; potential exposures in community, institutional and hospital settings should be investigated and persons with likely exposure should receive rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). Each year, approximately 55,000 persons worldwide die from rabies, a progressive encephalitic disease with a near 100 percent mortality rate. More than 98 percent of human rabies deaths are the result of transmission from the bite of a rabid dog, and nearly half of the world’s population currently lives in countries with canine rabies. On June 7, 2013, a man was diagnosed in a Texas hospital with rabies. He was detained in a U.S. detention facility when symptoms developed, during his infectious period. The Texas Department of State Health Services and CDC conducted rabies contact investigations at four detention facilities, one medical clinic, and two hospitals. In all, 25 of 742 persons assessed for rabies exposure were advised to receive PEP. Early diagnosis of rabies is essential for implementation of appropriate hospital infection control measures and for rapid assessment of potential contacts for PEP recommendations.

3. Notes from the Field

  • Coccidioides immitis Identified in Soil Outside of Its Known Range ― Washington, 2013
  • Trichinellosis Caused by Consumption of Wild Boar Meat — Illinois, 2013

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