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Responding to Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease Threats in 2017

Posted on by Rima F. Khabbaz, MD, Director, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases

Montage of photos. From left: a photo of different raw foods, including salmon, fruits and vegetables. A photo of a boy taking an oral vaccine. A photo of bacteria growing in petri dish.

Photo of Rima F. Khabbaz, MD, Director, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
Rima F. Khabbaz, MD, Director, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases

The fungal superbug Candida auris causes serious and often fatal infections. It can strike people in the places where they seek care—hospitals and other healthcare facilities. In early 2016, we knew about outbreaks of C. auris infections on multiple continents, but we were not sure whether C. auris was in the United States. Fast forward to 2017: C. auris is a priority for public health workers in the United States, and CDC, along with state and local health departments, has tracked more than 200 cases of C. auris infection in the country. Our experts have worked with healthcare facilities across the nation to implement infection control measures and stop transmission.

The progress to track and prevent C. auris is just one example of the important work experts from CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) tackled in 2017. Some of the other highlights from the NCEZID 2017 Accomplishments report are described below.

A tremendous year for public health

Summarizing last year’s major efforts was a difficult task. The numbers alone depict a tremendous year for public health. Here are just a few examples.  CDC sequenced nearly 45,000 DNA samples by using Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) technologies. The agency identified more than 1,100 illnesses that were associated with backyard flocks—the highest number ever recorded by CDC in a single year. And the Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network performed more than 12,000 tests to contain the spread of resistant infections, just to name a few accomplishments.

Tracking new and evolving threatsCDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) focuses on emerging diseases and diseases spread between animals and people. Our experts work around the clock to identify, track, control and prevent some of the deadliest diseases on the planet. This work includes tracking diseases across the globe and at home, developing innovations, investigating disease outbreaks in extreme conditions, and helping experts prepare for infectious disease threats.

Every day we are learning more about antibiotic resistance, which continues to be among the biggest health concerns in our country. In 2017, CDC took several important steps to combat antibiotic resistance, including rolling out a containment strategy to slow the spread of drug-resistant diseases in healthcare facilities—starting with a single case—and supporting 25 innovators through a CDC pilot project to develop solutions to antibiotic resistance crises.

Understanding the impact

We are also learning more about Zika virus. Zika was often in the headlines in 2016 and 2017, and the mosquito-borne virus continues to be a threat, especially for pregnant women and their fetuses. Last year, CDC experts shed light on a lesser-known effect of Zika virus infection: a link with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon illness of the nervous system. In 2017, CDC and partners conducted the first case-control study in the Americas that showed evidence linking Zika virus infection and GBS. This was just one of many vector-borne diseases CDC tackled in 2017.

Responding to new outbreaks

As we continued to work on lingering threats like antibiotic resistance and Zika, CDC also responded to new outbreaks in 2017, both at home and abroad. In the United States, we saw a range of illnesses connected to food products—from Salmonella infections linked to papayas to an Escherichia coli outbreak from soy nut butter. For the first time, scientists linked an outbreak of Seoul virus infections to pet rats in the United States, and AMD lab techniques proved critical in tracing this and other outbreaks. CDC scientists traveled across the globe in 2017 to investigate a myriad of outbreaks, including an outbreak of anthrax infections in animals in Namibia that posed a threat to human health. Experts helped respond to yellow fever outbreaks in countries including Brazil, and we continue that work today as the yellow fever outbreak in Brazil has expanded over the past two years and could affect US travelers.

Like CDC’s response to yellow fever outbreaks, much of last year’s work continues in 2018. We are closely tracking emerging infections like C. auris, continuing to study the effects of unusual diseases like Zika, and investigating and containing outbreaks of infections caused by a wide range of microbes such as Salmonella bacteria, monkeypox virus, and hemorrhagic fever viruses.

Want to learn more? Read the full NCEZID 2017 Accomplishments report, and follow NCEZID on Twitter @CDC_NCEZID.

Posted on by Rima F. Khabbaz, MD, Director, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious DiseasesTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

One comment on “Responding to Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease Threats in 2017”

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    This work is so impressive. I am particularly worried about antibiotic resistance. Thank you for sharing this.

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