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

The First Step in Identifying a Foodborne Outbreak… PulseNet

Categories: Foodborne

Cluster of indistinguishable PFGE fingerprints linked to the cookie dough outbreak.

The road to last month’s cookie dough recall started when CDC scientists reviewed information collected through PulseNet, a national network of laboratories that perform DNA “fingerprinting” of foodborne bacteria like E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria. These fingerprints are plugged into a database that CDC and its state partners routinely scan. I’m a PulseNet database manager at CDC and one of my jobs is to identify “clusters” – groups of illnesses that share the same fingerprint.

Crafting Ebola Prevention Messages in Uganda

Categories: Preparedness, Prevention/Vaccination

Workshop participants developed several alternative designs before agreeing a layout.

Workshop participants developed several alternative designs before agreeing a layout.

I work in CDC’s Special Pathogens Branch (SPB) where we study highly infectious viruses. My job is health communications and I’ve just returned from Uganda. I was there to work with the Ministry of Health and health educators from Uganda’s Western Districts to create materials that would help keep people there safe from Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers. Unfortunately, Uganda has seen more than its share of these diseases since the first cases were diagnosed in 1967.

Imported Human Rabies Cases

Categories: Vectorborne

A black and white picture of a Mexican freetail bat being held by a heavy glove.

In the U.S., human rabies is rare, thanks mostly to the availability of rabies vaccination and the elimination of dog rabies. But in many other countries around the world, dog rabies is very common and people are at greater risk. When a person travels or immigrates from an area of higher risk (like Mexico) to an area of lower risk (like the United States), they may encounter obstacles in getting diagnosed correctly if they have rabies. A recent human rabies case from California demonstrates the challenges that can arise when attempting to administer care to a person from another country.

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.

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