I missed out on chatting with Jim-don’t-call-me-Louis-CK-Cramer but CNBC’s Closing Bell continues to cover the Chipotle outbreak anthology.
CNBC also has a decent breakdown of how outbreaks are investigated (good background for food company executives so they don’t say that CDC is picking on them).
Doctors and lab technicians are required to alert health authorities if a patient is diagnosed with any of a number of diseases, including many food borne illnesses. The reports made to state health departments help to collect data and determine disease trends.
The state health departments use techniques such as serotyping, which identifies more particular types of a given bacteria, like Salmonella. They also do DNA “fingerprinting,” which isolates variable elements in a string to be matched to other DNA found in a cluster.
They input their findings into a system called PulseNet.
One problem for the CDC in identifying fresh produce as the source of an outbreak is that by the time investigators find the food, the infected produce could be spoiled and no longer available for testing. Between physicians, state health authorities and CDC lab testing, the whole process can take weeks.
That means it’s likely that once you read about people taken ill in the news, they were infected a while ago. The illnesses that were reported the week of Dec. 21 started between Nov. 18 and 26, for example.