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CDC, EFORS And Holiday Hours

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, December 20, 2006

As usual the people at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are being coy, but it seems likely that the sudden spate of produce-related foodborne illness outbreaks can be accounted for due to the summer upgrade of CDC’s Electronic Foodborne Outbreak Reporting System, or EFORS.

You can see a presentation here that was done some time ago but gives a basic overview of EFORS and plans for the project.

For now, CDC sent us a note providing the following information:

We are continually working to improve our systems in order to learn how to reduce the burden of foodborne disease. CDC has collected information on foodborne outbreak investigations done by state and local public health officials for over 30 years.

Since 2001, state and local health departments have reported the results of their outbreak investigations through a web-based reported system, the Electronic Foodborne Outbreak Reporting System (EFORS). EFORS has been updated to make reporting of outbreaks by state and local investigators even easier than it was before and to store and manage the data in a way that facilitates analysis and reporting of the important information we gather regarding foodborne outbreaks.

A listing of foodborne disease outbreaks reported to CDC can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ MMWR/preview/mmwrhtml/ ss5510a1.htm Data on outbreaks reported from 1998-2002 were recently summarized in the MMWR http://www.cdc.gov/ foodborneoutbreaks/ outbreak_data.htm

We tried to get more information and actually speak to someone, but the CDC said nobody is available due to the holidays.

We wrote about the CDC extensively in our analysis of PulseNet: pulseNet Ups Ante In Food Safety Battle, pulseNet Explains Why It Doesn’t Work Weekendsand then in pulseNet Redux, again in pulseNet Asleep At The Wheel and again in pulseNet, And The Pundit, In The News. Much of this coverage was focused on the fact that the CDC doesn’t keep PulseNet staffed during all the hours the state laboratories are open, much less 24/7/365.

We thought that buttressing this system by keeping PulseNet monitored all the hours the state labs are contributing to it would be a wise investment of public funds.

There is something funky about this agency, though. First we question them because the staff isn’t working when it needs to be to get info from the states. Then we go to talk to them about something completely different and we are told they don’t have anyone to talk to us because it is the holidays!

This agency is supposed to be our nation’s bulwark against not only illness but bio-terrorism. One would think they would need plenty of staff year-round. Something just isn’t right. The public is not being informed about what seems to be intense budgetary pressures at CDC.

It is a shame, too, because the public would support much more money for this cause.

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