Weekly Update |Minnesotan homes’ radioactive gas concern in the midst of the pandemic; Pet face mask demand skyrocketed; Streptococcus suis infections linked to eating raw pork in Thailand
Addis Hunde Bedada


LOCAL: Minnesotan homes’ radioactive gas concern in the midst of the pandemic

As many people are spending more time in their homes during the pandemic, the potential exposure to household health hazard gases could be higher. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says that it is more important than ever to know if our homes have high levels of radioactive gas known as radon. According to 2016-2019 MDH maps, the average radon level in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the U.S. radon level due to our geology and how our homes are operated.

​​​​​​Radon is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that occurs naturally. During the winter, home heating systems tend to draw in radon gas from the soil, increasing radon levels inside the home. The gas gives off radioactive particles that, when breathed in, can damage the lining of the lungs leading to cancer. In the United States, more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths are attributed to radon each year. Minnesota homes are closed up or heated most of the year, which can result in higher levels of radon. In the state, more than two in five homes have radon levels that pose a significant health risk, but many people are unaware.

To mitigate the problem, every year in January, the MDH raises radon awareness through TV, radio, billboard and internet spots. The department is also working with local public health departments and other organizations to raise awareness and make test kits available to Minnesotans at low or no cost. Nationwide, the US Environmental Protection Agency provides compulsory information about radon, its health effects, and control.

Minnesota Department of Health

NATIONAL: Pet face mask demand skyrocketed

Recently, a New York city-based company has reported booming sales of pet masks in 2020. The sales increased by about 500% as the virus spread across the country. The company sells masks in three different sizes that can be fitted to either cats or dogs. Each mask reportedly costs $25. Similarly, another company in Texas also revealed that its sales have quadrupled in just one week in January 2020 as worried pet owners looked to protect their animals.

As of January 12, seven animal species have contracted the virus naturally including gorilla, tigers, lions, mink, snow leopards, dogs, and domestic cats. However, according to the CDC, at this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. For a better understanding of infection, currently the CDC, USDA, state public health and animal health officials and academic partners are working in some states to conduct active surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in pets, including cats, dogs, and other small mammals, that had contact with a person with COVID-19. 

Wearing a mask can be distressing and makes breathing difficult for pets. Accordingly, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the UK vet charity PDSA are advising people not to put masks on their furry friends. To minimize transmission to animals, the CDC recommends COVID-19 patients to isolate themselves from their pets. If this is not possible they should wear a mask and gloves while handling their pet when ill. People should not use products including chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hand sanitizer, or counter-cleaning wipes on their pets.

Business Insider
​​​​​​National Geographic
​​​​​​Fox Business

INTERNATIONAL: Streptococcus suis infections linked to eating raw pork in Thailand

In 2020, 340 Streptococcus suis infections and 12 fatalities were reported by the Thailand Ministry of Public Health. The infection was associated with risk behaviors consisting of eating raw pork with fresh blood (Lahp-moo) and close contact with pigs without adequate personal protection The highest incidence was recorded in Uttaradit, Phichit, Phayao, Kamphaeng Phet, and Lampang provinces. According to global review, Thailand had the second-highest number of reported cases, accounting for 11% of all reported cases worldwide.

Streptococcus suis is a major swine pathogen worldwide and can be transmitted to humans by ingesting raw pork or contact with sick or carrier pigs. The microorganism causes meningitis, septicemia, hearing impairment, endocarditis, arthritis, and septic shock in both pigs and human beings, and mortality is high. Human infection occurs commonly among certain risk groups like pig breeders, veterinarians, slaughterhouse staff, and butchers that have frequent exposure to pigs or pork. The eating behavior of the community is another notable potential risk factor for the infection.

The community in the provinces were well-advised to avoid eating raw or undercooked pork, practice personal and environmental hygiene, and avoid contact with pigs that are sick or dead from diseases and their excreta or body fluid. If contact is deemed essential, the use of protective gloves, washing hands after handling pigs or raw pork, and covering all wounds are strongly recommended. Researchers also suggested improving the capacity of local laboratories to identify the organism to aid clinical management and facilitate outbreak detection and response.

Outbreak News Today

Portrait of Addis Hunde Bedada

Addis Hunde Bedada

Addisalem Hunde Bedada is a veterinary public health resident at the University of Minnesota. Since graduating from Addis Ababa University, Dr. Hunde Bedada has worked as an instructor and researcher at Wollega University, and most recently, as a veterinary drug and feed inspector with the Ethiopian Veterinary Drug and Feed Administration and Control Authority. He is particularly interested in food safety and production systems, antimicrobial resistance, One Health, and zoonotic disease outbreak investigation and prevention. In his free time, Dr. Hunde Bedada can be found reading books, enjoying nature and watching soccer.