Hepatitis A outbreak linked to smoothie cafes infects six in Maryland
A hepatitis A outbreak linked to Egyptian strawberries has grown to more than 50 cases in four states and infected several people in Maryland, health officials said. Six people in Maryland were infected in the outbreak linked to frozen berries used at Tropical Smoothie Cafes, said Christopher Garrett, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Five of the state’s six cases came from cafes in Maryland. One came from a cafe in Virginia. The department continues to investigate, Garrett said. Tropical Smoothie Cafe representative Peyton Sadler said the contaminated strawberries have all been pulled, and now they’re using strawberries from California and Mexico. Virginia health officials have confirmed at least 40 of the viral infections, which can damage the liver. A health official in West Virginia confirmed three cases in the state’s Eastern Panhandle linked to a cafe in Martinsburg, and another case is under investigation.
State education agency hires two administrators
Carol Williamson, the former superintendent of Queen Anne’s County public schools, has been hired as Maryland’s deputy state superintendent for teaching and learning. Williamson has worked in Maryland public schools for her entire career, starting in Dorchester County as a teacher and moving through the ranks there before going to Queen Anne’s, where she was an assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent. Her contract was not renewed by the school board this year in an abrupt action that caused an outcry from parents and local leaders. The Maryland State Department of Education also hired Sylvia Lawson to be deputy superintendent for school effectiveness. Lawson, who joined the department in July, was formerly the assistant superintendent in Charles County. She has worked in education in Maryland for nearly 30 years as a teacher, vice principal and principal of schools in Charles and Calvert counties. Williamson and Lawson are part of the senior leadership team of Karen Salmon, who was appointed state superintendent of schools in May. Federal authorities will now require that the public be warned about the potentially dangerous combination of prescription opioids with a class of drugs called benzodiazepines that are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety. The so-called “black box” warning, the strongest required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will inform patients and prescribers about the serious risks from mixing benzodiazepines and opioids used in painkillers and cough medications. The labels will go on almost 400 drugs and will warn of risks including extreme sleepiness, respiratory depression, coma and death, according to the FDA. The move comes on the heels of a petition drive by state and local public health officials asking for the extra labeling to avoid those serious problems. Maryland reported 351 opioid-related deaths last year and 91 benzodiazepine-related deaths.