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Sharing our stories on preparing for and responding to public health events


A New Twist for Ebola: Reston-Infected Pigs in the Philippines

Categories: Vectorborne

Pigs grazing in a field.

Ebola-Reston [initial identification] virus is a mystery. Although quite deadly in monkeys, this Ebola cousin doesn’t appear to cause human illness. And who knows how it got to or independently evolved in the Philippines – a good 7,000 miles and really big ocean away from its Zaire, Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire, and Bundibugyo brethren in Africa.  If that wasn’t enough, our colleagues at Plum Island recently suspected it as the cause of disease in some sick pigs for the first time from the Philippines that happened to be submitted for testing for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).

CSI Atlanta: Foodborne Outbreak

Categories: Foodborne, Response

a close up of a globe.

During the recent investigation of the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul, CDC often mentioned that the overall “outbreak investigation is complex and difficult.” This complexity and difficulty extends to the hundreds of outbreaks that never make national headlines as local public health officials trace outbreaks to specific venues and food items. CDC assists local public health officials to investigate about 100 multi-state clusters or confirmed foodborne outbreaks each year; many of which never lead to a specific implicated food item; approximately 10 that are particularly large, complex or extended become formal Epi-AID investigations. The use of a fingerprinting system for disease agents has greatly enhanced our ability to detect outbreaks but increases the effort to review suspicious clusters. For example, we now get over 60,000 patterns added to the database each year. This week, CDC’s OutbreakNet Team is evaluating 35 different clusters to determine their significance. This includes an investigation of an outbreak of Salmonella Poona with the same fingerprint pattern.

Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak: Epilogue

Categories: Foodborne, Response

Salmonella Saintpaul epi curve

I’ve spent many years roaming this planet and, without doubt, we have amongst the safest food in the world. However, the largest foodborne outbreak in the last 10 years with an estimated 15, 000 cases is a vivid reminder that a number of factors will continue to drive outbreaks even here in the US. A report on the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak by the Pew Charitable Trust’s Produce Safety Project identified many gaps in the nation’s food safety system and highlights a response system that I equate with driving while looking through the rearview mirror.

Novel Arenavirus Causes Mystery Illness in Zambia and South Africa

Categories: Vectorborne

Immunohistochemistry stain of the liver from a fatal case of Lassa Fever.

Immunohistochemistry stain of the liver from a fatal case of Lassa Fever.

An active, young Zambian safari guide fell ill last month with an unexplained illness that rapidly progressed to her death after medical evacuation to South Africa.  Three additional people who had close contact with her or her body fluids, a paramedic, a nurse and a hospital worker, also shortly became ill — and despite all medical efforts, have also died.  A fifth case, also a nurse, is currently hospitalized and receiving Ribavirin treatment.  CDC’s unexplained death and severe illness group has supported the Ministry of Health and South African scientists of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to identify a novel arenavirus as the cause of this medical mystery.

Produce Strikes Back: Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak

Categories: Foodborne, Response

A laboratorian places a PFE gel under UV light.

McDonald’s stopped serving sliced tomatoes on their burgers. Other businesses in the food industry have also recently joined this precautionary movement — actions that follow a trail of health reports all over the United States in what has become one of the largest multistate outbreaks in history.

Mosquitoes: The World’s Deadliest Animals

Categories: Vectorborne

Local boy herds cattle near Antananarivo, Madagascar.

The area surrounding Antananarivo, Madagascar, was not predicted to be a high risk area for Rift Valley Fever this year. Yet as I stepped off the plane from Italy last week, I reviewed a request from the MoH (Madagascar Ministry of Health) through their embassy for U.S. assistance as the epidemic that began in February continues to silently rage in the region.

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