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Rolling Up Our Sleeves to Fight Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Categories: Zoonotic Disease

CDC scientist Linda Cheng, collaring dogs in Arizona.

CDC scientist Linda Cheng, collaring dogs in Arizona.

I am a pediatrician by training, and people are often amused by that fact when I tell them what my job responsibilities sometimes include. Going door-to-door putting tick collars on dogs and treating yards with pesticide are not activities people typically associate with their children’s doctor. However, this is exactly what my team and I were doing last summer.

I am a medical officer at the CDC in the Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch, and my team consisted of public health specialists, including veterinarians and scientists. We traveled to eastern Arizona last summer to join with a group of concerned community members to tackle Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), a serious public health threat in this region.

Globe Hopping, Rabies Stopping: Outreach to DRC

Categories: Vectorborne, Zoonotic Disease

Dr. Richard Franka and Lillian Orciani provide guidance to laboratory staff.

Lillian Orciari and Dr. Richard Franka (far right) provide guidance to laboratory staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

We often talk about what we’ve done to help others stay free of infectious diseases. But something that often goes unstated is the training we provide that gives other health and medical professionals the tools to keep people healthy. Although a lot of this work happens here in the United States, the assistance we provide to other countries facing overwhelming disease outbreaks is also important.

Hemorrhagic Fever in Saudi Arabia: Following the Ticks

Categories: Vectorborne

Bobbie Rae Erickson (center, in black) of CDC's Special Pathogens Branch meets with Saudi and other scientists near a goat pen to learn about Alkhurma virus transmission in livestock.

Bobbie Rae Erickson (center, in black) of CDC's Special Pathogens Branch meets with Saudi and other scientists near a goat pen to learn about Alkhurma virus transmission in livestock.

As scientists with CDC’s Special Pathogens Branch, Pierre Rollin, Bobbie Rae Erickson, and I recently boarded a flight from Atlanta to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, so that we could provide health officials with our expertise on Alkhurma virus. This virus causes Alkhurma hemorrhagic fever, a tick-borne disease that can be serious, even fatal, in humans. Ticks with the Alkhurma virus are believed to pass the virus on to camels, sheep, and goats. It’s not a new disease, but it is a high-hazard disease that we have much to learn about.

Helping Scotland Investigate, Treat Anthrax Among Heroin Users

Categories: Anthrax

Drs. Shadomy and Stauffer standing in the snow.

Drs. Shadomy and Stauffer. Click on the image to see the full picture.

On December 17th, Health Protection Scotland contacted the Bacterial Zoonosis Branch (BZB) to discuss 3 cases of anthrax in heroin users. They requested assistance with the epidemiologic investigation and patient treatment options, such as adjunctive therapy with anthrax immune globulin. Because immunotherapy is of potential benefit in anthrax, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC provided immune globulin for patients with anthrax.

Climate Change: Communicating Complexity

Categories: General

 

Cracked desert landscape

The influence of weather on infectious diseases has been recognized for centuries. In our own experience, we know that some diseases like influenza are more common in the winter or others thrive better in the tropics. The effects of climate – weather over long periods of time – on infectious diseases have been getting a lot of attention lately. I was recently interviewed for a Focus Earth episode on infectious diseases and climate change. The introductory clip frames a debate between a calculated scientific position for the impact on individual infectious disease versus broad generalizations about global warming. It makes for great television and offers an opportunity to educate and engage the public about the health impact of climate change. In this case, both positions are true but highlight the difficulties in communicating the complexity of health effects from climate change – especially when we try to isolate the effects of climate from other biologic, ecologic, or social changes that lead to changes in infectious diseases.

Advanced Lab Techniques Help Pinpoint the Source of Outbreaks

Categories: Disease Investigation

These are the tools used in multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeats analysis (MLVA), a technique that has the potential to identify subtle differences at the genetic level between closely related bacterial strains.

These are the tools used in multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeats analysis (MLVA), a technique that has the potential to identify subtle differences at the genetic level between closely related bacterial strains.

When CDC is working on an outbreak of foodborne illness, it’s our goal to pinpoint the source as quickly and precisely as possible so we can prevent any further threat to public health. For several years now, the PulseNet Methods Development and Reference Unit (PMDRU) has been developing and validating new methods to complement pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), which is currently the standard typing method used in outbreak detection. The method that we have found most helpful in detecting subtle differences between closely related bacterial strains is a technique known as multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA).

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