Hep­ati­tis A out­break linked to smoothie cafes in­fects six in Mary­land

Baltimore Sun - - 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.

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