Lice and fleas, not rats, may have been the culprit: Plague came to Europe in the 14th century and rapidly conquered the continent. The pandemic, one of the worst in human history, killed tens of millions. Up to 60 percent of the population succumbed to the bacteria called Yersinia pestis during outbreaks that recurred for 500 years. Even now, the “biggest conundrum in the field” is the physical mechanism that hastened plague’s swift spread, says Monica Green, a historian at Arizona State University and an expert in medieval European health. A study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests an answer — and it points primarily to lice and fleas, not rodents, as the culprit. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Flu victims’ families share warnings: It doesn’t matter if you run marathons or play sports, when it comes to the flu, no one is completely immune. That’s the warning families of flu victims and health officials are hoping to spread throughout this year’s flu season as the epidemic continues to plague the U.S. The flu is now widespread in every state except Hawaii and has claimed the lives of at least 20 children, according to the CDC’s latest report. California is being hit particularly hard, with reports of at least 27 deaths of people under the age of 65 in the state since October. The virus that’s predominating this year is Influenza A (H3N2), which tends to be more severe. READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

Coconut may be responsible for outbreak: Coconut may be responsible for a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicates that Coconut Tree Brand frozen Shredded Coconut is the likely source of this multistate outbreak. This investigation is ongoing. As of Jan. 12, 25 people in nine states had been infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:- (24 people) or Salmonella Newport (one person). READ MORE

WATER SAFETY

Company denies responsibility for contaminated drinking water: A Mountaire Farms exec met with residents of Millsboro, Del., to talk about elevated levels of nitrates in residential wells. He understands residents’ worries, but doesn’t believe wastewater treatment problems at the company’s Millsboro facility are to blame for the contaminated residents’ drinking water, said Mike Tirrell, executive vice president of processing operations. READ MORE

EMPLOYEE SAFETY

Gas compressor explodes: A gas compressor explosion disrupted operations at a Seaboard Foods Corp. pork processing plant in Guymon, Okla., on Tuesday, according to local media. No injuries were reported. Authorities are looking into the cause of the incident involving a natural gas compressor station behind the Seaboard pork plant, reported NewsChannel 10. READ MORE

Carbon monoxide leak sends 17 to hospitals: The Chicago Fire Department said Wednesday that 17 people were transported to area hospitals from the Chicago Meat Authority’s facility on the city’s South Side. NBC Chicago, citing Chicago Police, said multiple people at the business were complaining of difficulty breathing following a carbon monoxide leak caused by a malfunctioning fan. READ MORE

ANIMAL FEED SAFETY

Green beans might be culprit: Los Alamitos, Calif.-based JustFoodForDogs LLC has recalled three frozen dog food flavors after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a sample of one of its products. Test results suggest “human-grade” green beans are the contaminated ingredient. As with all pet food recalls for pathogen contamination, there is a risk to pet owners and others who handle the food. Hands, utensils, food bowls, countertops and other surfaces can become cross-contaminated from contact with the pet food. JustFoodForDogs initiated product testing after a regular customer reported her dogs became ill. She said the “Turducken” flavor of the food made her dogs sick with vomiting and diarrhea, according to a statement from the company. The dogs have since recovered. READ MORE

TERRORISM

Bomb-making video still online: A terrorist bomb-making video watched by Salman Abedi before he blew himself up at a Manchester, England, pop concert is still being shared on YouTube, the U.S. Senate has heard. A Senate committee questioned how the video was getting round the web giant’s safeguards designed to stop extremists posting propaganda and terrorist content. The video has been uploaded to the site as recently as this month, the committee disclosed as they quizzed executives from the world’s top social media companies. READ MORE

Don’t get complacent about ISIS: As we keep pointing out, ISIS isn’t gone. The Islamic State on Wednesday claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Baghdad this week that killed at least 27 people. It was the first major attack in Iraq’s capital since the government declared victory over the terrorist group last month. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

McDonald’s will recycle, etc.: By 2025, 100 percent of McDonald’s guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources with a preference for Forest Stewardship Council certification. Also by 2025, the company has set a goal to recycle guest packaging in 100 percent of McDonald’s restaurants.  This expands upon McDonald’s existing goal that by 2020, 100% of fiber-based packaging will come from recycled or certified sources where no deforestation occurs. READ MORE