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PulseNet In Action

From 1996 to 2011, the number of human specimens submitted to PulseNet increased from 254 to 58,799, while non-human specimens submitted increased from 5 to 4,617 during the same period.

Isolates reported to PulseNet

Pulse Net was developed after the 1993 E. coli O157 outbreak from hamburgers sickened 726 people 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 widespread than originally thought. Health departments did not have data to determine which illnesses were linked by a common food source.

PulseNet solved this problem by providing the testing methods, technology, and data needed to connect illnesses to a common food source as well as other patients. PulseNet is a national network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories that perform standardized molecular subtyping ("fingerprinting") of foodborne disease-causing bacteria. PulseNet detects subtypes of E. coli O157 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium botulinum*, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio cholerae, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Stories about PulseNet

CDC Feature: PulseNet & Foodborne Disease Detection
Since 1996, PulseNet has connected foodborne illness cases together, using DNA "fingerprinting" of the bacteria making people sick, to detect and define outbreaks. PulseNet has been responsible for detection of hundreds of local and multi-state outbreaks, leading to prevention opportunities and continuous improvements in our food safety systems that might not otherwise have occurred. Since "foodborne illnesses do not respect any borders," PulseNet International performs a similar role for worldwide foodborne illnesses… More

CDC 24/7: PulseNet at Work: Detecting Hazardous Hazelnuts
They're usually in bowls of mixed nuts that are a holiday staple. But for 8 people who lived in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, the 2010 holidays weren't so merry. Beginning in late December, they all came down with a rare and serious illness caused by Escherichia coli O157:H7 that was lurking in, of all places, hazelnuts… More

CDC 24/7: Deadly Listeria Outbreak Halted in Record Time
In 2011, cantaloupes contaminated with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes caused the deadliest foodborne disease outbreak in the United States in nearly 90 years. The number of deaths would have been higher had it not been for an effective, coordinated response by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health departments, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Lives were saved because the outbreak was detected, its source was identified, and a national warning was issued – all in just a matter of days… More

Stories from the Field: PulseNet International: Tracking foodborne disease outbreaks throughout the world
In February 2007, millions of Americans heard news reports about a large multi-state outbreak of Salmonella traced to peanut butter produced in Georgia. Because foodborne disease outbreaks do not respect borders, and with increasing international trade of food, CDC's PulseNet program was also working closely with federal and international partners to ensure global detection of the outbreak… More

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*Clostridium botulinum is considered a select agent and, as such, follows different handling procedures than other pathogens covered by PulseNet.

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