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Technical Assistance

At the request of states, localities, tribes, and territories, EHS provides technical assistance to address environmental components of outbreaks, emergencies, and other environmental health challenges. This page summarizes some of our technical assistance activities.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) Rodeo Project

In 2012, CDC began working with American Indian communities in Arizona to control Rocky Mountain spotted fever after an outbreak of the vectorborne disease. CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) led the overall agency response, and EHS helped develop and implement a reservation-wide dog collaring program to halt disease spread by dogs, the main source of exposure to disease-transmitting ticks. This work is ongoing; read more.

Irrigation Water Issues Potentially Related to Multistate E. coli Outbreak on Spinach

A restaurant chain received spinach contaminated with E. coli, which made many people ill. Environmental health investigators traced the spinach back to one farm’s irrigation system. Read more.

Haiti Assistance after Earthquake

Water and sanitation conditions were at crisis levels after the devastating earthquake in January 2010 and the cholera outbreak in October 2010. Before these events, Haiti had the lowest water and sanitation coverage in the western hemisphere. To address the ongoing cholera epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assigned staff to provide targeted technical assistance on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

In 2012, the Haitian Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation (DINEPA) did not have a rural workforce capable of responding to the WASH needs of communities. EHS worked with DINEPA to design and develop a targeted WASH training program. EHS then trained specialists who formed training teams that implemented the same program for 264 potable water and sanitation technicians in all 10 Haitian departments.

South Bass Island Assessment

At the request of the Ohio Department of Health, EHS investigated the potential sources of water contamination on South Bass Island in 2004. Ohio asked for assistance because slightly more than 1,000 persons reported a sudden onset of symptoms that included diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

Epidemiological evidence collected by the multiagency outbreak response team implicated drinking water consumed on the island as the vehicle of the outbreak. Before the EHS team arrived, the local outbreak response team began to collect information on the various South Bass Island water sources and systems and sewage management practices and procedures. Major findings in the investigation included the following:

  • E. coli was found in 30%-40% of the collected groundwater samples. Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Campylobacter, and Salmonella were also detected in groundwater.
  • The inadequate soil depth contributed to the likelihood that subsurface sewage disposal systems at homes and businesses introduced the sewage into the groundwater.
  • Lake water had contaminated the groundwater entering the acquifer through subsurface voids, openings, crevices and caves and mixed with the sewage.
  • A review of treatment plant operational records and water testing results of the water leaving the plant did not find tainted water was being released.

EHS also offered recommendations to mitigate the groundwater pollution problem and prevent illness.

Technical Report: Outbreak of gastroenteritis with multiple etiologies among resort island visitors and residents—Ohio, 2004. [PDF - 1.15 MB]

Lead Exposure Reduction Plan in La Oroya, Peru

In March 2004, EHS collaborated with other scientists from the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to provide technical assistance in the development of an integrated plan for addressing lead pollution problems in La Oroya, Peru. The team assessed conditions that may be contributing to reported health complaints and elevated blood lead levels in the smelter community of La Oroya. For more information see our La Oroya News Feature Page.

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