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Stories From the Field

These stories illustrate the work CDC and its partners do to advance public health across the United States and around the globe.

CDC experts work with states, countries, and other partners to detect and respond to outbreaks, train professionals and strengthen health systems, and create programs that increase the safety of people's food, water, and environment.

In the United States


  • Caramel ApplesWhole Genome Sequencing Pinpoints Source of Listeriosis Outbreak
    Seven people died and 34 were hospitalized during a multistate listeriosis outbreak in fall 2014.  Investigators needed to know which cases of listeriosis were related to find the source of the outbreak. Whole genome sequencing, a laboratory technology that allows for detailed comparison of germs, helped investigators find the source of the outbreak sooner than if they only used traditional lab technologies.
  • woman using cellphone eatingUsing Online Restaurant Reviews to Find Local Foodborne Outbreaks
    Local health departments detect many foodborne outbreaks through illness complaint systems. The public, however, may not use these systems or may not be aware of them. Staff at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene worked with Columbia University and Yelp, an online review site, to pilot a project to identify foodborne outbreaks that may go undetected through traditional complaint systems.
  • chia seed and powder.Asking the Right Questions Quickly from the Beginning
    During an already busy summer in 2014, several FoodCORE centers proved once again to be instrumental during the investigation of a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections involving multiple Salmonella serotypes. PulseNet initially detected several ill people with a rare DNA fingerprint of Salmonella Newport and multiple health departments, including six FoodCORE centers, immediately began working with their federal partners on the investigation.
  • Baby laying on pillowStopping a Salmonella Outbreak among Infants in a Nursery
    In a quaint town along the South Carolina coast, an otherwise healthy 5 month old girl began to show signs of getting sick. After a few days of diarrhea, her condition worsened, and she started having blood in her stools. Her parents immediately took her to their pediatrician, where a stool sample revealed a Salmonella infection.
  • Graphic: University of FoodCORE logo"U" niversity Partnerships-at the Core of FoodCORE
    It's hard to imagine that simply having students talk with patients about chicken livers, raw milk, and sprouts could help protect our food supply and save lives, but it's true. These students have become integral in identifying the culprits in outbreaks of foodborne illness across the country.
  • Image of Lady Working In Lab.PulseNet and Foodborne Disease Outbreak Detection
    PulseNet was developed after the 1993 E. coli O157 outbreak from hamburgers made 726 people sick and killed 4 children. After the outbreak, more clinical labs began testing ill people for E. coli and found many more infections—revealing the problem was more serious than originally thought.


  • investigational drug miltefosine (trade name, Impavido)CDC Offers Hope in Fighting Brain-Eating Ameba
    Miltefosine has shown promise in treating free-living ameba (FLA), a single-cell living organism commonly found in warm freshwater or soil. Infections with this ameba are rare but deadly. For that reason, CDC keeps a stock of miltefosine at the agency. Physicians can call CDC’s Emergency Operations Center 24/7 to consult with a CDC expert about obtaining this drug.
  • Girl in lake floating on tubeWisconsin's Public Health Sleuths Take to the Lake
    In the summer of 2012, an outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses occurred at a Wisconsin lake. The Jackson County Health Department received quick notice of these illnesses and officials started to investigate. Officials found that many of the sick people had been at the same outdoor recreation area the day before they got ill. Investigators wanted to find the cause fast so they could keep more people from getting sick.



  • CowTennessee Detectives Investigate an Outbreak of Cryptosporidium
    In the summer of 2012, public health officials in Tennessee were notified that a group of volunteers were sick with gastroenteritis. The volunteers were from multiple states and had traveled to Tennessee to work on a farm. Tennessee officials worked with several states to figure out what caused the illness.

Around the Globe



  • Image of a GlobeFighting a Deadly Fungus: Preventing deaths from Cryptococcus
    The fungus Cryptococcus causes life-threatening meningitis in hundreds of thousands of people every year. Most of these infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa. In countries with large populations of people living with HIV/AIDS, CDC is helping implement targeted cryptococcal screening programs and build laboratory capacity to detect cryptococcal infections early.
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