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Not a Typical Spring Weekend: Seven Salmonella Investigations

Categories: Foodborne

Under a very high magnification of 12000X, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) revealed the presence of a large grouping of Gram-negative Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria that had been isolated from a pure culture.

Under a very high magnification of 12000X, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) revealed the presence of a large grouping of Gram-negative Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria that had been isolated from a pure culture.

Foodborne illnesses occur throughout the year and summers tend to be busy with outbreaks. I work in CDC’s Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch and we just spent a few busy weeks on an investigation linking E. coli 0157 illnesses to raw cookie dough. See Karen Neil’s blog about that process.

Still, even in our busiest times, we don’t generally find ourselves spending entire weekends working on outbreaks. But on Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29, 2009, our branch found itself tracking the investigations of seven Salmonella outbreaks concurrently – six in the United States and one in Uganda. I was Acting OutbreakNet Team Lead that weekend.

Linking Raw Cookie Dough to an E. coli Outbreak

Categories: Foodborne, Response

Raw chocolate chip cookie dough on a flat surface.

Contaminated raw cookie dough wasn’t on anyone’s mind as my public health colleagues and I were searching for the cause of a multistate outbreak of E. coli infections.

I’m one of the Epidemic Intelligence Service officers in CDC’s Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, which monitors and investigates foodborne diseases together with CDC’s Enteric Disease Laboratory Branch and state health departments. On any given day we are working on several clusters and outbreaks of illness.

Of Pigs and Men

Categories: Zoonotic Disease

One pig looking at a man's boot as he sits on the fence.

When I started working at CDC as an EIS Officer in the Influenza program, there was a lot of focus on pigs as the source of novel influenza viruses. It was called the mixing vessel theory and in retrospect it was my introduction to the importance of infectious disease ecology to prevent microbial threats. Pigs can be infected by multiple different influenza viruses and “mix-up” their 8 genetic pieces to create a brand new or reassortant virus. The new H1N1 flu virus appearing in different parts of the world has genetic pieces from human influenza, bird influenza, and 2 different types of pig influenzas. It has been referred to as a quadruple reassortant.

Trichinellosis: “Bearly” Cooked

Categories: General

Trichinella larva encysted in bear muscle tissue.

In late October 2007, a hunter in Northern California shot a black bear and brought the carcass home for a community feast the next day. At least 38 people ate a variety of dishes, some of which included bear meat which was not fully cooked. Within a week, people who had attended the event started getting sick with fever, chills, and muscle aches. Over the next few weeks, 30 people became ill. Based on the clinical symptoms and the history of a common meal of bear meat, a local physician suspected Trichinella infection was causing these illnesses and notified the county health officials.

Clostridium difficile – an Emerging Zoonosis?

Categories: Foodborne

Question mark made of raw meat.

The media has recently given attention to studies [G. Songer; Rodriguez-Palacios A, et al] that isolated a bacterium called Clostridium difficile from meats sold in grocery stores.  C. difficile causes a severe colon infection and is generally acquired in hospitals and long-term care facilities.  Although most of the cases of C. difficile infection are healthcare associated (80%), the other twenty percent of cases are acquired in the community – outside of healthcare settings.  The cause(s) of these infections are still poorly understood.  The recent studies question whether C. difficile in meats is a source of human infection.

Snails, Slugs, and Semi-slugs: A Parasitic Disease in Paradise

Categories: General

Parmarion martensi: a semi-slug commonly found in Hawaii.

CDC plays a vital role supporting state health departments, particularly with management of rare or lesser-known pathogens. Recently, CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases (DPD) was contacted by the Hawaii Department of Health (HI DOH) for advice regarding three cases of presumed Angiostrongylus cantonensis (AC) infection. AC, commonly called the rat lungworm, is a parasitic worm and the most common infectious cause of eosinophilic (a type of white cell) meningitis in humans worldwide.

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