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CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Shares Recent Zoonotic Disease Research

Zoonotic diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi that are spread between animals and humans are quite common and scientists estimate that more than 60% of human infectious diseases are spread from animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Officers of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) presented the results of their recent research on May 4 in the Zoonotic Diseases session of the 65th Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. A brief summary of the information that was presented is included below:
Escherichia coli O157 infections cause approximately 95,000 illnesses and 60 deaths yearly in the United States,” Kathryn G. Curran, PhD, said in her talk.
Dr. Curran and her colleagues linked a 2015 Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 infection outbreak in Whatcom County, Washington, to a dairy event for students in a barn contaminated during earlier animal exhibitions. Overall, 60 people became ill, 11 (18%) were hospitalized, and six (10%) developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.
The researchers conducted a case-control study of 27 patients who had laboratory-confirmed E. coli O157 infection, bloody or loose stools, or hemolytic uremic syndrome, and 88 healthy controls. Handwashing with soap and water or hand sanitizer before lunch was protective (odds ratio, 0.29; 95% confidence interval, 0.09 to 0.91). Barn samples yielded E. coli O157 with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns identical to those from outbreak strains. Improper cleaning and the layout of the event may have increased infection risk. The researchers advised better education, handwashing, and other infection control measures.
Alexia Harrist, MD, PhD, and her group studied Francisella tularensis exposure among National Park Service employees at Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming in 2015. The researchers identified F. tularensis-infected rodents in the park and an employee developed tularemia. None of the employees wore masks or insect/tick repellent whenever they landscaped, and the researchers found no association between protective measure use and seropositivity.
Overall 23 (52%) of employees completed a questionnaire and serosurvey. The results showed that 3 (13%) employees who were seropositive reported contact with a median of 30 ticks, compared with 6 ticks among those who were seronegative (P=0.008). More seropositive employees than seronegative employees used powered blowers (67% versus 5%, P=0.034) and collected animal carcasses (100% versus 30%, P=0.047), respectively. Dr. Harrist advised that individuals who work outdoors can lower their tularemia risk by consistently preventing exposure during F. tularensis epizootics.

Influenza A (H3N2) has caused most of the illnesses in this severe flu season, but influenza B is becoming increasingly responsible for more infections as the flu season continues to hit the United States.