In the United States, the CDC, EPA and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists maintain a national database known as the Waterborne Disease and Outbreak Surveillance System (WBDOSS) to track waterborne disease outbreaks (WBDOs).
Public Health Microbiology
“I must have come down with the stomach flu.” How many times have we heard that line used to describe a set of symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramps and other gastrointestinal ailments? In reality, there is no such thing as a stomach flu. Flu, or influenza, is a seasonal respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses.
As of October 3, 2011, at least 100 people have been sickened and 18 have died from an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes associated with cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado. The grower has voluntarily recalled the produce, and the CDC and other agencies have issued bulletins to alert the public of this potential health hazard.
Earlier this month, a 16-year old girl in Florida contracted a waterborne parasite known as Naegleria fowleri after swimming in a local river. Sadly, the girl developed meningoencephalitis, a severe infection of the brain, and died.
Legionella are a group of Gram negative bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia. Legionella bacteria are found naturally in aquatic environments, preferring warm conditions. They are frequently isolated from cooling towers, hot water tanks, hot tubs and plumbing systems.
In 1993, the largest outbreak of waterborne microbial illness ever recorded in the United States occurred in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Approximately 400,000 people were sickened, and at least 100 people died. The microbe responsible for these infections was Cryptosporidium.
Recently, one of the most talked-about areas of microbiology concerns the establishment and activity of microbial biofilms. A biofilm is a collection of microorganisms contained in an extracellular matrix of proteins and polysaccharides (basically, slimy substances) that adheres to a surface, creating a protected environment for the organisms.