TOPIC: Centers for Disease Control

Another reason to diet: Feds investigate Illinois sandwich chain

The Centers for Disease Control has started to take control of a salmonella outbreak that primarily happened in Illinois, reports Chris Freeman of the Northwest Herald in McHenry County, Illinois.

The outbreak is tied to alfalfa sprouts served at the Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurant, headquartered in Champaign, Illinois.  (more…)

When journalists make it harder to understand government

William Neuman’s (or his editor’s) effort in the New York Times to explain a very important issue — food poisoning — left me scratching my head.  Here’s the lede:

The federal government on Wednesday significantly cut its estimate of how many Americans get sick every year from tainted food.

But that does not mean that food poisoning is declining or that farms and factories are producing safer food. Instead, officials said, the government’s researchers are just getting better at calculating how much foodborne illness is out there.

According to new government estimates, three thousand Americans die every year from food poisoning, and 48 million get sick.  That’s the story, right?  Or do methodologies and research priorities interest America’s “paper of record” more?  (They’re certainly not what most Americans have time to pay attention to). (more…)

Gardasil, the FDA, and VAERS: How Americans concerned about vaccines interact with government

Emily Tarsell thought she had enough information about Gardasil — a new vaccine marketed to young women to prevent certain types of cervical cancer — when she agreed to have her daughter receive the vaccine.  But after her third and last injection of Gardasil, in 2008, Christina Tarsell, a previously healthy 21-year old, was dead.

The depth of this family’s anguish at the death of their daughter can’t be conveyed.  But after some time (more…)

Lack of awareness on HIV

The Centers for Disease Control has released a study on HIV infections among gay men and the Chicago Tribune’s Dahleen Glanton relays the finding that 18 percent of men who have sex with men in Chicago are infected with HIV. Fifty-three percent of these men are not aware they’re infected, higher than the national norm. (more…)

No bad eggs in Illinois

Illinois so far has sidestepped major problems with the national outbreak of salmonella-tainted eggs that were made in Iowa.  The Washington Post’s David Brown reports that salmonella-tainted eggs produced by Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa have sickened 1,200 people nationwide. The company has initiated a recall of 380 million eggs, but the worst could be still to come: (more…)

Hospital-acquired infections down, but still kill thousands

Each year 31,000 people in the U.S. die from infections acquired in hospitals — infections that are largely preventable. Fortunately, hospital-acquired infections are in decline in Illinois and most other states monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (more…)

Slow Interagency Response Delays Solutions on Defective Chinese Drywall

Gut your homes. That’s the advice the federal government gave homeowners whose houses smell of rotten eggs and have corroding electrical wiring because they were built with defective drywall imported from China between 2003 and 2008.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) made the startling recommendation in a joint statement, saying the importe drywall might be a health hazard and that residents should “remove all possible problem drywall from their homes, and replace electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.” (more…)


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued recommendations that health professionals use antiviral drugs aggressively among at-risk individuals who come down with the H1N1 flu virus. But as David Brown writes in the Washington Post, the CDC has also been quick to note that most people who get sick with swine flu will not, in the agency’s opinion, require special antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza. A CDC spokesman even said that “mom’s chicken soup” would be the medicine of choice for most children, teenagers and adults.


New York City public health commissioner Thomas Frieden is Barack Obama’s pick to run for the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC director is not a Senate confirmed position so Frieden can start work next month, not in five years.

The New York Times’ Gardiner Harris and Anemona Hartocollis take a look at Frieden’s seven years as NYC public health head, all under the Michael Bloomberg administration. Frieden’s best known for banning tobacco from NYC restaurants and bars and it’s interesting how the Times frames this action: "Dr. Frieden has a history of focusing on health threats that endanger large numbers of people, sometimes at the expense of more popular causes. This put him in marked opposition to the Bush administration, which spent more than $50 billion on bioterrorism initiatives and paid far less attention to problems like smoking."

This is strong praise: Frieden is not afraid to put on the backburner the issue causing the most public fear so he can work on an issue that causes the most public harm. A far-sighted approach will be necessary to overhaul CDC, which is under the Dept. of Health and Human Services. The agency went through a bureaucratic realignment (read: privatization, privatization, privatization) that backfired in the Bush administration, incensing career agency scientists.-MB


Barack Obama is handling the swine flu outbreak well and he can thank George W. Bush for that, reports the Washington Post’s Spencer S. Hsu and Scott Wilson. In 2005, Bush developed a National Pandemic Strategy including a Domestic Readiness Group to coordinate activities between the White House Homeland Security Council, Dept. of Homeland Security and multiple parts of Health and Human Services including the National Institutes for Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is a pleasant surprise to hear that the Bush administration set up the bureaucratic structure needed to deal with pandemic flu. And it is even better that Obama is the president to carry it out. Obama resisted calls to close the Mexican border calling it "akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out." He has told Americans to take the outbreak seriously without stoking irrational fears. His measured response contrasts to a predecessor who when faced with crisis would either over-react (The Patriot Act, torture), react in a completely counter-productive, diversionary way (the Iraq War) or ignore the problem before it was too late (Hurricane Katrina, housing bubble).-MB