The Washington Post reports on tracking outbreaks.
"Last month’s deadly E. coli outbreak in fresh bagged spinach is beginning to fade from public memory. Spinach is back on supermarket shelves and in salad bars, even as a team of about two dozen California state and federal investigators continue to work around the clock searching for the source of the outbreak.
The all-out intensity of the effort is warranted given that the outbreak has sickened 200 people and killed at least three. It provides a contrast, however, to the system that is supposed to be the front line for detecting outbreaks of foodborne illness–an even bigger issue these days with the potential threat of a terrorist attack on the food supply.
The system that health officials rely on to track outbreaks is called PulseNet. It’s a network of public health labs run by the Centers for Disease Control. State and local labs that suspect an outbreak submit information such as the genetic makeup of whatever nasty bug is making the rounds into the network’s database. That allows federal health officials to link clusters of illness in different locations across the country."