Thursday, November 25, 2004
Time of the year for parties, can also be a time for dangers

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

This is the time of the year to go to parties. It is also a time to recognize the dangers associated with doing so. The number one danger is obvious. Parties are often associated with alcohol. Drinking and driving are clearly something to be avoided. It is important for everyone to play a role in preventing this. The drinker should not drive. There should be designated drivers available. Other party goers need to pay attention to the individuals around them. They should make sure that those who have had too much to drink do not leave in that condition. A second medical issue is related to the temperature of the food. Hot food should be hot. Cold food should be cold. When hot food cools off, bacteria begin to grow. When cold food gets warm, bacteria begin to grow. The longer the bacteria grow, the more of them that are present in the food. For example the E. coli that you may have read about doubles in number every 20 minutes under ideal growth conditions. That means it quadruples in 40 minutes and increases by eight times in an hour. Getting sick from bacteria in food is related to the number of bacteria eaten. The more in the food, the more likely one is to get sick. This means that the food for a party should be put out as late as possible. It also would suggest that hot and cold foods should be put out in small amounts rather than all at once. This will ensure that the smaller portions are gone quickly and can be replenished. The third item is that the food should probably stay out a maximum of two hours before it is reheated or re-cooled. Studies at salad bars in restaurants show that this is about the time that the temperatures change to an undesirable level and bacteria begin to grow significantly. Another good idea is to label foods and ingredients. Some people have food allergies and it would be good for them to know up front what is included in a dish. This is especially true for certain types of food. For example, peanut allergies kill more people than any other food in this country each year. Dishes that have nuts, especially peanuts or peanut butter, should be labeled as such. Seafood and shellfish allergies re common. Some casseroles or sauces have seafood in them. It would be a good idea to let party goers know this ahead of time. These are just some of the examples to think about when planning parties. It is a time of the year to have fun. We need to make sure that we keep it that way by planning properly.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.
DPH provides hospitals with disease prevention signs
Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) distributed signs to the state’s nine hospitals to tell Delawareans how they can help prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses. “Printing and distributing these signs is another way Public Health assists hospitals in reducing the spread of viruses and diseases,” said DPH director Jaime H. Rivera, M.D. “People go to hospitals to get well, not to come down with a virus accidentally given to them by a visitor.” DPH developed the signs at the request of the Hospital Preparedness Steering Committee, whose members represent hospital administration, infection control, safety departments, and various DPH employees. DPH asked the hospitals to post them at hospital entrances so patients, outpatients and visitors are reminded of the necessity of thorough and frequent hand washing, using tissues when coughing or sneezing, and considering not visiting patients if visitors are sick themselves. DPH first gave the hospitals disease prevention signs in 2003.