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News and Features

This page provides links to this year’s EHS spotlight and news articles.

Quick links to past EHS spotlight and news articles by year:
2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001.

2015 News Items

Spotlight Features

Improving State and Local Capacity to Assess and Manage Risks Associated with Private Wells and Other Drinking Water Systems Not Covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act [PDF - 402 KB] – Eleven percent of U.S. households (~35 million people) use drinking water systems that are not covered by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). In this column, Raquel Sabogal and Brian Hubbard discuss CDC’s funding initiative supporting 11 state and local grantees to improve their capacity to assess and manage risks associated with drinking water systems not covered by the SDWA. This article was published in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak at a Long-Term Care Facility Caused by a Cooling Tower Using an Automated Disinfection System—Ohio, 2013 [PDF - 689 KB] – On July 9, 2013, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was identified at Long-Term Care Facility A in central Ohio. This article describes the investigation of the outbreak and identification of the source, a cooling tower using an automated biocide delivery system. This article was published in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Infographic on Preventing Foodborne Illness Outbreaks [PDF - 2.1 MB] – NCEH has released a new, free food safety infographic! This infographic depicts the cost of foodborne illness, the unique role of environmental health in outbreak investigations, and success stories from our work. Download your own copy today, and feel free to share with your colleagues and those involved in food safety. Also please plan to join CDC for a Twitter chat on Bringing Food Safety Home for the Holidays (#CDCFoodChat) 2 to 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 9.

Legionella Website with Videos & Other Outbreak Resources – CDC estimates that between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease in the United States each year, and the number of cases reported to CDC has been on the rise over the past decade. CDC has developed a number of resources on this website to help health departments investigate legionellosis outbreaks in their area, including 6 short environmental investigation videos, an environmental assessment form and sampling procedures. 

SUPEH Call for ApplicationsApply now through February 3 for CDC’s Summer Program in Environmental Health (SUPEH). SUPEH is a paid 10-week internship for students majoring in environmental health in a program accredited by the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC). Interns gain environmental health experience and an understanding of environmental health work at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels.

Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) Vote on the Code – The conference may be over, but the voting process is just beginning! CMAHC members can submit their votes from November 21 through December 20. To learn how to become a member of the CMAHC, visit their website.

Rodent Control and Public Health: A Description of Local Rodent Control Programs [PDF - 152 KB] – Controlling rodents in rural and urban settings has been a public health challenge for many years. In this article, guest author Lisa Brown and CDC author Joe Laco discuss the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ profile of 9 rodent control programs across the nation to understand their capacity, challenges, best practices, and needs. This article was published in the November 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Keeping Cool Under Pressure: NYC Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak, Summer 2015 – This blog post discusses the work of a team of epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, and environmental health experts as they responded to this summer’s outbreak of Legionella, the largest ever recorded in New York City. In response to this outbreak, the city passed new legislation that requires registration of all cooling towers and defines maintenance standards. The collaborative efforts of public health professionals from city, state, and federal agencies made it possible for this outbreak to be identified, solved, and contained as quickly as possible. CDC’s Environmental Health Services Branch was instrumental in the environmental investigation.

EHS Support to Identify & Address Root Causes of Foodborne Illness – CDC works with health departments to investigate environmental factors that contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants, delis, and other retail food outlets. This page includes information about new health department funding to identify and address the root causes of foodborne illness in restaurants under RFA-EH-15-001.

EHSB’s Free Resources for Environmental Health Practitioners.[PDF - 413 KB] – Environmental health practitioners need current information with the latest research and best practices. In this column Elaine Curtiss highlights food safety, water protection, and performance improvement resources on the newly updated Environmental Health Services Branch (EHSB) website. This article was published in the October 2015 issue [PDF - 98 KB] of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Join Us for VOTE ON THE CODE Biennial Conference to Update the Model Aquatic Health Code – CDC invites you to join the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) as a member and participate in person or online in the Vote on the Code Biennial Conference on October 6–7. Your expertise drives updates to the Model Aquatic Health Code. Free Livestream access of the Conference available to CMAHC members. Public comment period from October 7–23; voting from November 6–December 6.

The Role of Environmental Health Programs in Public Health Accreditation – The National Association of County and City Health Officials, with funding from EHSB, interviewed local health departments about the steps they take and types of environmental public health documentation they used in seeking accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board. This free, 2-page PDF shares the results, lessons learned, and best practice recommendations.

EHS Working with Water Programs to Promote Safe Drinking Water – CDC works with drinking water programs at health departments to address problems with wells and other private drinking water sources in their communities. This page includes information about new health department funding to reduce exposures from private drinking water sources under CDC-RFA-EH15-1507.

Groundwater Protection – Many parts of the United States depend on groundwater as a primary source of water. This page includes resources for environmental health practitioners on groundwater protection.

Food Safety Resources for Environmental Health – Address environmental causes of foodborne illnesses with our new webpage bringing together all of CDC's food safety resources for environmental health practitioners.

Letter Grading and Transparency Promote Restaurant Food Safety in New York City (NYC) [PDF - 633 KB] – In this article, Wendy McKelvey, Melissa Wong, and Bailey Matis share proactive steps the NYC Health Department (a CDC Environmental Health Specialist Network [EHS-Net] grantee) has taken to improve food safety in NYC's 24,000 restaurants, including creating an app with restaurant inspection grades. This article was published in the September 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health. Watch a video presentation about this program.

E-Learning on Environmental Assessment of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks – Practice skills in an interactive virtual environment and learn to conduct environmental assessments as part of outbreak investigations. Also, watch our video about this innovative training!

Campylobacter Training Kit – Access this training kit for resources to train restaurant workers on how to properly handle raw chicken to prevent the foodborne illness associated with the bacteria Campylobacter. Resources are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese and were developed by San Mateo County, California, an EHS-Net grantee. Read more [PDF - 485 KB] about the training kit.

Food Safety Centers of Excellence – Six state health departments and their academic partners are providing in-person and online resources, training, and assistance in tracking foodborne illness and investigating outbreaks. This assistance is designed to strengthen foodborne illness surveillance and improve food safety in your community.

Equipping Environmental Health Workers with Environmental Assessment Tools. [PDF - 431 KB] – Food-related illnesses affect tens of millions of people each year, killing thousands and costing billions of dollars in hospital- and industry-related expenses. In this article, Erik Coleman discusses two innovative tools for environmental health workers to assist in fighting this “winnable battle”–an e-learning training and a reporting system on environmental assessments of outbreaks. This article was published in the July/August 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Model Aquatic Health Code Provides Guidance on Aquatic Facility Safety – This blog post by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) discusses how the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code maintains and updates the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). This quick read offers some background about the MAHC as well as suggestions about how you can get involved with updating this model code in the future.

FREE Pool Chemical Safety Posters – We currently have a surplus of free pool chemical safety posters! The laminated posters are available in both English and Spanish, and they cover how to safely use and store pool chemicals. If you could use the posters, please submit an order or if you need more than 50 of either poster, please email; enter “Pool Chem Safety Posters” in the subject line; and indicate which posters you need (use and/or storage), the number of posters you need, and the name and address to where we should ship your order.

Environmental Health Professionals Work the Bugs Out – School Integrated Pest Management. [PDF - 631 KB] – Every day, millions of children going to school may unwittingly be exposed to harmful pesticides. Guest authors Dawn Gouge and Marc Lame discuss how integrated pest management can reduce pesticide reliance while maintaining a safe, pest-free learning environment for children. This article was published in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

It’s All about the Return on Investment: The Model Aquatic Health Code. [PDF - 224 KB] – Now that the MAHC has been released, tracking the code’s impact is vital to its long-term success. In this column, CDC authors Michele Hlavsa, Jasen Kunz, and Michael Beach discuss tracking the MAHC’s impact in key areas with the top five public pool states and how the MAHC will be updated in the future. This article was published in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Register Today - Free Webinar on States’ Role in Updating Pool Safety Codes on Friday, May 22 – Join CDC, industry, and state health officials for this free webinar on the Model Aquatic Health Code as a tool for state programs. Register at

2015 Sapphire Award Honoree – Congratulations to Florida’s Department of Health in Indian River for their use of the Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health to make a “significant, positive impact on health-related outcomes for Florida’s at-risk people and communities.”

Sharing Environmental Health Services Across Jurisdictional Boundaries. [PDF - 536 KB] – CDC authors Liza Corso and Robert Blake and guest authors Gianfranco Pezzino and Patrick Libbey discuss the benefits from cross-jurisdictional sharing of essential public health services and offer examples of successful collaboration from around the nation. This article was published in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Best Food Cooling Practices for Restaurants – EHS-Net study examines the food cooling practices of 420 randomly selected restaurants to assess current practices and to provide recommendations for cooling foods more effectively to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.

2015 Healthy and Safe Swimming Week: “Make a Healthy Splash: Share the Fun, Not the Germs”
Start planning now for Healthy and Safe Swimming Week (May 18–24, 2015): Educate your community about a few easy and effective steps to maximize the health benefits we all get from swimming.

March 8-14 is National Groundwater Awareness Week – Explore groundwater resources for environmental health practitioners.

Searching for E. coli – In 2006, a restaurant chain received spinach contaminated with E. coli, which made many people ill. Read the NCEH blog entry about how our scientists found out what caused a multistate outbreak of E. coli on spinach in 2006.

Acute Gastrointestinal Illness Following a Prolonged Community-Wide Water Emergency – New publication examines the association between water service disruptions and acute gastrointestinal illness.

EnvPHPS Logic Model for Drinking Water Programs – New tool with recommended strategies for public health department drinking water programs and activities to improve programmatic performance using the 10 Essential Environmental Public Health Services.

National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Calls for an Increased Focus on Improved Recreational Water Safety [PDF - 325 KB] – NACCHO has released Statement of Policy 15-01 emphasizing the importance of pool inspection and other recreational water safety activities at local health departments. The statement mentions the Model Aquatic Health Code as a tool health departments can use to decrease waterborne injury and illness and promote healthy swimming.

Modeling Health Impacts of the Transportation Built Environment: Challenges and Opportunities. [PDF - 360 KB] – Guest authors Geoffrey Whitfield and Arthur Wendel discuss the benefits and challenges associated with using models to predict community behaviors while planning the built environment, particularly regarding walking, biking, and using public transit.

Promo Video for Food Safety e-Learning – Check out our short video promoting CDC’s fun, free, and interactive e-Learning on Environmental Assessment of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks. The skills needed to participate in an outbreak investigation are different from those needed to inspect restaurants, and the role of environmental health staff is critical. View the video to learn why you should register for this training today.

Controlling Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) – Study reports results of a successful campaign to eradicate the brown dog tick and reduce RMSF in an Arizona community with high RMSF-related fatalities.

E. coli Outbreak Investigation – Article reports findings of an in-depth systems analysis of irrigation water quality after a strain of E. coli caused an outbreak in Iowa and Minnesota in 2006. Contaminated shredded lettuce was found to be the source of the outbreak.

Summer Internship with Environmental Health Services – Applications are now being accepted for a 10-week summer environmental internship for students majoring in Environmental Health. Interns gain environmental health experience and an understanding of environmental health work at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels. Application deadline: February 11, 2015.

Managerial Practices Regarding Workers Working while Ill – EHS-Net publication describes restaurant policies for sick workers, what happens when managers work when sick, and what happens when workers work when sick.

The Road Towards Environmental Justice From a Multifaceted Lens [PDF - 264 KB] – Guest columnist LaToria Whitehead discusses concerns and challenges shared in environmental health and describes ways to strengthen the role of state, local, tribal, and national environmental health professionals to respond to adverse environmental exposures.

Request Changes for the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) – The Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code is accepting change requests for the 2nd edition of the MAHC until February 19, 2015. Find out how to submit changes.

Improving Environmental Public Health Services Performance to Meet Community Needs [PDF - 1.35 MB] – New guidance document describes performance improvement resources and tools and explains how those tools are used to produce results that can be integrated into broader public health department performance improvement initiatives.

Restaurant Manager and Worker Food Safety Certification and Knowledge – Article examines the relationships among kitchen manager and worker food safety certification, food safety knowledge, restaurant and manager characteristics, and foodborne illness risk factors observed in restaurants.

Earlier news items are available on the News and Features Archive page.

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