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Quick and Affordable Test is Saving Lives in Areas Still Ravaged by “Black Death”

Categories: Global Health Threats, Innovative Labs

The terrain of the plague-endemic region of Uganda

CDC scientists are developing better ways of detecting the world’s most deadly diseases. In this guest blog post, Dr. Paul Mead, a medical epidemiologist with the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) at CDC, explains how he and a team of scientists are using a quick and affordable handheld test to detect plague in patients in a matter of minutes – critical for such a rapidly fatal disease.

This tool – developed by Dr. Marty Schriefer and his team at DVBD – is being used in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and village leaders to save lives in rural Uganda, where laboratories for diagnosing diseases like plague are rare. In addition to improving the diagnosis and treatment of plague in communities still ravaged by the disease, DVBD is evaluating ways to prevent human plague altogether by reducing exposure to rats and their disease-causing fleas.

Up and Running in 48 Hours: How Federal Medical Stations Help People After Natural Disasters Like Hurricane Sandy

Categories: Emergency Preparedness & Response, State & Local Success

About Federal Medical Stations

Twenty-four hours. That is how long it took CDC’s Division of Strategic National Stockpile (DSNS) to unpack and set up a 40,000-square-foot federal medical station (FMS) in the Middlesex College gymnasium in Edison, New Jersey (pictured above), capable of caring for up to 250 people displaced by Hurricane Sandy and in need of non-acute (non-emergency) medical care. (This was one of seven FMSs deployed to the region after the hurricane, all of which required a swift yet coordinated effort between CDC’s DSNS and the Health and Human Services Secretary’s Operations Center in Washington, D.C.)

The Critical Role of State Health Depts. in the U.S. Fungal Meningitis Outbreak: 4 Key Efforts

Categories: Emergency Preparedness & Response, State & Local Success, U.S. Disease Outbreaks

CDC remains at the front line of the current U.S. fungal meningitis outbreak, which has since early October sickened 490 people and caused 34 deaths in 19 states.  On Nov. 15, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing about this outbreak. This post is an excerpt from the testimony of Dr. Beth Bell, director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at CDC, who discussed, among other things, the critical role state health departments played in detecting and sounding the alarm on this outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections.

(To read Dr. Bell’s complete written testimony, visit the CDC Washington website. To watch the full hearing, visit the committee’s website. Dr. Bell appears at the 40 minute mark. )

NJ Newborn Screening Lab Perseveres Through Hurricane Sandy, Keeps Hundreds of Babies Safe

Categories: Emergency Preparedness & Response, State & Local Success

First, About Newborn Screening:

Life-saving public health initiatives like newborn screening (NBS) can’t be put on hold, even during and after a devastating storm like Hurricane Sandy. In this guest blog post, Dr. Scott M. Shone, a research scientist and manager of the NBS lab (pictured above) at the New Jersey Department of Health, talks about his staff’s remarkable dedication and hard work to keep NBS testing going during the storm.

Dr. Shone’s lab is one of more than 70 NBS labs in the country that screens newborns within 48 hours of birth – a short but critical period when babies, even those who look healthy, are tested for hearing loss and certain genetic, endocrine, and metabolic conditions. The timing of these blood tests is critical because early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can prevent death or more serious health problems later in life. Sometimes newborns need immediate medications or a special diet to save their lives or protect them from a lifetime of disability.

4 Things You Should Know About the Current U.S. Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

Categories: Emergency Preparedness & Response, U.S. Disease Outbreaks


The CDC lab has identified Exserohilum (pictured above) as the primary fungus responsible for the current meningitis outbreak. Photo courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library.

1. What’s going on?

  •  As of November 19,  478 cases, including 34 deaths, of fungal meningitis have been reported in 19 states (see case count map). Twelve cases of joint infections have also been reported.
  • The meningitis and infections have been linked to three lots (i.e. batches) of an injectable steroid medication produced by New England Compounding Company (NECC) (see health care facilities map).
  • The implicated lots of medication have been recalled; however, approx. 14,000 people may have been exposed to the contaminated injectable steroid medication.
  • The medication in question differs from the epidural given to pregnant women during childbirth.
  • For more information, visit  CDC’s Current Situation webpage.

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