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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.

NCIS Atlanta: Severe Rash Illness in Baja

Categories: Vectorborne

Specimen captured in the Sanorales Region by Biologist Beatriz Salceda of the Entomology Department of the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference of the Ministry of Health, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Dr. Rocío Sánchez, Medical Epidemiologist of the Directorate General of Epidemiology (DGE), leader of the outbreak invetsigation team.

Specimen captured in the Sanorales Region by Biologist Beatriz Salceda of the Entomology Department of the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference of the Ministry of Health, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Dr. Rocío Sánchez, Medical Epidemiologist of the Directorate General of Epidemiology (DGE), leader of the outbreak invetsigation team.

A mysterious cluster of illnesses and deaths of unknown cause was recently reported in Baja California, a Mexican state that – as the Spanish translation suggests – is situated just below the California-Mexico border. Our shared border with Mexico fosters a mutual interest in epidemiologic events like this one — where time is of the essence and lives are at stake.

Simian Malaria in Humans: Hard to Tell

Categories: General

Long-tailed macaque.

Malaria is preventable and treatable. However, each year 350–500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and more than a million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa. In the U.S., about 1,500 people get malaria annually, almost all from traveling to countries where malaria is transmitted. In 2006, six people in the United States died from malaria.

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