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
- Whole 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.
- Using 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.
- 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.
- Stopping 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.
- "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wisconsin'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.
- Investigating the Expanding Geographic Range of Coccidioides into the State of Washington
In the past, scientists believed that Coccidioides, the fungus that causes valley fever, only lived in the Southwestern United States and parts of Latin America. However, cases of valley fever have recently been found in people in the south-central region of Washington State. CDC has been developing new tools that make it faster and easier to detect Coccidioides in the environment.
- Tracking the Long-term Progress of Patients Affected in the Multistate Fungal Meningitis Outbreak
After an unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis associated with contaminated steroid injections from a compounding pharmacy, CDC and partners are studying long-term outcomes for those patients.
- Fatal Gastrointestinal Fungal Infection Following Use of a Contaminated Dietary Supplement
CDC, FDA, and state health departments investigated a fatal case of gastrointestinal mucormycosis caused by Rhizopus oryzae in a premature infant.
- Tennessee 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
- Using Solar Energy to Treat Waste in Kenya
Refugee camps are often crowded, making it essential—but difficult—to provide adequate infrastructure for safe drinking water and sanitation. Solar sanitation is an inexpensive, innovative, and effective form of waste treatment that uses concentrated solar energy to treat waste so it can be safely discarded or potentially used for fertilizer or fuel. This is a critical component of a holistic waste management system that will ensure latrines are emptied, maintained clean, and reused—conserving space in the camp and reducing open defecation.
- Typhoid Fever Targets Children from Kenyan Urban Slums
About 200,000 people live in Kibera, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, and the largest informal settlement in East Africa. With an estimated one-pit latrine for every 200 people, residents use plastic bags for relief and then dispose of them anywhere. This practice, known as ‘flying toilets,’ is more common at night among women and children concerned about the area’s lack of security. Without sanitation facilities to contain and dispose of human feces, those living nearby are at risk for enteric diseases (those that cause diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting), such as typhoid fever.
- Defeating Diarrhea: CDC and Partners Tackle Causes and Consequences in Kenya and Beyond
"What if we lost 50 city buses full of children today?" asks Michael Beach, the associate director for healthy water in CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. "That's 2,195 children—the number who die daily of diarrhea around the world. That's more than die from AIDS, malaria, and measles combined."
- Delivering Health by the Drop
In the world today, close to 1 billion people still drink water collected directly from streams, lakes and shallow hand-dug wells, while hundreds of millions more drink contaminated water from unsafe municipal systems or borehole wells.
- Life–Saving Collaborations: USAID and CDC
In global health work, it is important to find legacies that stand the test of time_and scrutiny. CDC and USAID's collaboration to address critical global health issues is one that provides both agencies the opportunity to build such a legacy.
- Fighting 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.