Freezing temps might be responsible: A massive fish kill in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted in thousands of dead fish washing up on the beaches of Gulf Shores in Alabama. Experts say it’s possible the temperatures and duration of last week’s extreme cold snap caused this fish kill, which is now stinking up some Gulf Shores homes and could get worse as the weather warms up. READ MORE

WATER SAFETY

Pharmaceutical residues in streams causing resistance: Pharmaceutical residues are increasingly detected in surface waters throughout the world. Researchers sampled four streams in Baltimore and  detected analgesics, stimulants, antihistamines and antibiotics using passive organic samplers. Then they exposed biofilm communities in these streams to the common drugs caffeine, cimetidine, ciprofloxacin, and diphenhydramine and found that biofilm functioning in the most urban stream was resistant to drug exposure. A biofilm is a thin, slimy film of bacteria that adheres to a surface. Biofilms provide an optimal environment for the exchange of genetic bacteria between cells (“jumping genes”), including genes for antibiotic resistance. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

A very bad flu season: Aja C. Holmes planned to go to work last week, but her flu symptoms — a cough, fever and severe body aches that worsened overnight — had other ideas. “It felt like somebody took a bat and beat my body up and down,” said Holmes, 39, who works as a residential life director at California State University, Sacramento. “I couldn’t get out of bed.” The nation is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad flu season. READ MORE

Nasty flu season, supplies short: An ongoing shortage of fluids used to deliver medicine and treat dehydrated patients has hospital workers scrambling in the midst of a nasty flu season, and supplies from factories in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico have been slow to rebound. Supplies of saline and nutrient solutions were already tight before hurricanes pounded Puerto Rico and cut power to manufacturing plants that make much of the U.S. supply of fluid-filled bags used to deliver sterile solutions to patients. Hospital officials, pharmacists and other staff have been devising alternatives and workarounds, training doctors and nurses on new procedures and options, and hitting the phones to try to secure fluids from secondary suppliers. READ MORE

Poop-tober, anyone? In the spirit of Drynuary, an author for Atlantic Monthly says she would like to propose another health-oriented month of the year. Perhaps called Crunch-uary or Poop-tober, it would be 30 days in which Americans, for once, eat enough dietary fiber. Currently, Americans only eat about 16 grams of fiber —the parts of plants that can’t be digested—per day. That’s way less than the 25 to 30 grams that’s recommended. She said there are so many reasons why, from fast-food marketing to agriculture subsidies, but one contributing factor is the slow death of cooking, and the rise of the restaurant meal. READ MORE

NYC garbage piling up after bombogenesis: Garbage is piling up on New York City streets across all five boroughs after Thursday’s winter storm, and many residents complain their trash hasn’t been picked up since Christmas. The NYC Department of Sanitation says around 40,000 tons of garbage has gone uncollected in the last week. Monday’s trash sat on the curb, adding to mounds of bombogenesis snow and even more garbage dating back to the holidays. READ MORE

Two thousand may have been exposed to hepatitis: Health officials in Salt Lake County, Utah, are warning residents that an estimated 2,000 of them could have been exposed to hepatitis A at a local 7-Eleven convenience store. Customers who used the restroom or consumed a fountain drink, fresh fruit or food from the hot food case have been advised to contact the county health department to get information about receiving a preventive hepatitis A injection. READ MORE

U.S. stands behind claim: The United States stood behind its assertion that U.S. personnel in Cuba were deliberately attacked and raised the possibility Tuesday that a virus was used, as lawmakers and even the FBI challenged the initial theory of “sonic attacks.” The lack of answers more than a year after the incidents started has emboldened Cuba’s defenders to argue the U.S. can’t be certain anyone was harmed intentionally — especially since no proof has been publicly presented. But top State Department officials testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said even if it wasn’t a sonic attack, they were sure it was an attack of some other kind. READ MORE

ANIMAL HEALTH

Dr. Oz fails to ask pork producers about antibiotic use: Earlier this week, television’s Dr. Oz took on antibiotic use in the meat supply by investigating America’s bacon problem, raising the question, “Is the Pork Industry lagging in taking out antibiotics?” The episode description: “The pork industry is taking a long time to comply with the World Health Organization’s demand that the use of antibiotics in animals to be used as meat cease immediately.” Dr. Oz starts the show with a strong statement, “While the chicken industry has reduced their use of antibiotics, the other white meat — pork — has lagged behind. What’s slowing them down?” He failed to ask any pork producers. READ MORE

Global swine disease trends charted: Despite the importance of infectious diseases to swine health, few efforts have been made to describe trends in infectious diseases of swine at the global scale. Publication trends on swine pathogens can be used as an indicator of research priorities in different regions and may reflect tendencies to focus research efforts toward endemic or foreign pathogens with higher prevalence, health consequences or economic impact. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

Saudi Arabia conserves water by importing alfalfa: American alfalfa hay exports have steadily grown over the past two decades. Exports to China, specifically, have accounted for a large portion of that growth over the past 10 years. But there’s a new king emerging: Saudi Arabia. According to USDA, exports of alfalfa hay to Saudi Arabia in 2017 are up 40 percent compared to 2016, and the agency expects that to grow. Saudi Arabia is being very strategic about preserving its water resources for direct human uses by locking in contracts for imported high-quality alfalfa to feed its 425,000 dairy cattle as well as other high-value livestock such as sheep, goats, racing and dairy camels, and Arabian horses.  This keeps Saudi Arabia from being dependent on external supply chains for importation of essential milk and dairy-product. READ MORE

Rural task force proposals in line with pork producers’ recommendations: The Trump administration unveiled its blueprint for spurring rural development and prosperity this week, which includes efforts supported by the National Pork Producers Council. The task force recommendations are in line with the priorities of the U.S. pork industry, which has been urging the administration to ease the regulatory burden on agriculture and business, to reform the U.S. visa system to make it easier to hire foreign workers and to maintain access to important export markets, including Canada, Mexico and South Korea. READ MORE

WEATHER EMERGENCIES

Search still on for mudslide victims: Rescue crews with dogs and scanners dug through waist-deep mud in an affluent stretch of Southern California’s coast on Wednesday, hunting for up to two dozen people missing after mudslides swept through the coastal community and killed at least 15. The mudslides in Santa Barbara County resulted from a downpour on Tuesday that damaged historic hotels and surrounded homes with debris, including those of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, the area draws the wealthy and the well-known with its natural beauty and proximity to sprawling Los Angeles. READ MORE