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About the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases

Ever-changing challenges

triplex heading image for DFWED

Changes in society, technology, our environment, and microorganisms themselves are affecting the occurrence and complexity of foodborne, waterborne, and mycotic (fungal) diseases.

For example in the 1980s, E. coli 0157 first emerged and spread to contaminate a growing variety of foods.  Prevention approaches—including heighted surveillance and monitoring, aggressive recall policies, and reduction in contamination throughout the food chain—were targeted at this type of E. coli and some other pathogens and showed some success. In fact, the rate of lab-confirmed cases of this E. coli O157 declined enough to meet the Healthy People 2010 target of <1 case for every 100,000 people living in the community.

On the other hand, multiresistant Salmonella are a growing challenge to human and animal health. Waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, although virtually nonexistent in the United States, cause needless disability and death globally. Fungal infections are common among immunocompromised patients and are difficult to diagnose and treat. Infections of animals can spread to humans by direct contact and by less obvious routes. Microbial adaptation is resulting in new—or previously unrecognized—pathogens.

How we work

It is our mission to better understand these emerging, reemerging, drug-resistant, bacterial, parasitic, and mycotic pathogens and to discover the pathways they use to make people sick. We do this in collaboration with state health departments, academic researchers, federal regulatory agencies, and partners around the world, and use this information to improve prevention and inform policy. Our expertise in foodborne bacterial diseases, waterborne bacterial and parasitic diseases, and mycotic diseases build on the following activities:

  • Surveillance, investigations, and studies to define disease etiology and develop effective methods for diagnosis, prevention, and control
  • Clinical, field, and laboratory research to develop, evaluate, and improve laboratory methodologies, materials, and therapeutic practices used for environmental detection, diagnosis, treatment, investigation, and control
  • Environmental microbiology research activities that promote research on preventing infectious disease transmission from the environment to humans
  • National and international epidemic aid and epidemiologic consultation upon request
  • Scientific and technical assistance to other CDC components and assistance in professional training and proficiency testing requiring unique expertise or specialized equipment not otherwise available
  • Designated national and international reference/diagnostic centers and services
  • Clear health promotion strategies, campaigns, and messages to promote prevention

Microbial Risk Assessment Guideline

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chaired an interagency work group that recently completed a microbial risk assessment guideline.  The goal of this document is to produce a more harmonized treatment of microbial risk assessment across participating federal agencies. Other Federal partners, including representatives from DFWED and DHCPP,  NCEZID were active participants and contributors to this effort.  The guideline entitled "Microbial Risk Assessment Guideline: Pathogenic Microorganisms with Focus on Food and Water" [PDF - 231 pages] addresses the entire risk assessment process from an introduction to terminology and roles of the participants to planning the risk assessment, identifying and characterizing the hazard, assessing how the size of the outbreak may be affected by the dose (exposure assessment) or how the severity of the disease may be affected by the pathogen and its response within the human host (dose-response assessment).  The document describes the importance of addressing the routes of exposure, transport media, uncertainties, and assumptions for exposure and other components of the risk assessment paradigm when characterizing risk, and also provides information about microbial risk management and risk communication.

2010 Accomplishments

Organizational Structure

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