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CDC conference lets investigators share first look at perplexing health concerns

Last updated March 15, 2020

Approved by: Lester Fahrner, MD

Protecting health-care workers from Ebola, making pork barbecues safer and asking why America's children don't ride bikes to school are just three of 80 investigations conducted by CDC's current Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers who will present their scientific work at the annual EIS Conference, April 23-27, in Atlanta.


CDC conference lets investigators share first look at perplexing health concerns

Protecting health-care workers from Ebola, making pork barbecues safer and asking why America's children don't ride bikes to school are just three of 80 investigations conducted by CDC's current Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers who will present their scientific work at the annual EIS Conference, April 23-27, in Atlanta.

The five-day conference allows CDC's disease detectives to share their original research and investigations of the previous year, which span the nation and the globe. The 2001 EIS Conference captures an array of puzzling health issues investigated by some of the nation's top health professionals.

"The EIS program helps protect Americans from health threats of all kinds, and the type of investigations being presented this year continues this 50-year tradition," said CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., and former EIS officer. "Public health is about every person, no matter their age, economic status, or lifestyle. Using science and shoe leather, CDC's EIS officers find the answers to perplexing health problems for individuals and communities."

The following are some of the presentations scheduled for next week:

"Seroprevalence of Ebola Virus Antibodies Among Health-Care Worker–Uganda, 2000," is an investigation into the numbers of health-care workers who tested positive for antibody to the Ebola virus following the most recent outbreak. In some cases, although health-care workers did not become ill, they did test positive. CDC's EIS officers conclude that education is needed to prevent patient-to-staff transmission of Ebola virus along with strict adherence to barrier nursing techniques. (April 23, 8:30 a.m.)


"Does Insurance Decrease Women's Risk for Multiple Births Associated with Assisted Reproductive Technology?" explores an issue previously uninvestigated. The EIS officer explains that many infertility specialists and advocacy groups argue that lack of insurance fosters the transfer of more embryos leading to an increased risk of multiple births. Twins are five times as likely as singleton infants to die during the first year of life and triplets or higher are 13 times more likely. (April 23, 1:30 p.m.)


"Outbreak of Community-Acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Skin Infections Among Alaskan Natives – Southwestern Alaska, 2000," highlights the increasing concern that drug resistant organisms are not just a manifestation of hospital care. Communities can become at risk from drug resistant organisms that move from the hospital setting into the community. The EIS officers discovered unlikely sources for this transmission, including sauna use. (April 23, 3:30 p.m.)


"Gender Differences in Stroke Subtype Mortality Among Racial/Ethnic Populations – United States, 1995-1998," investigates the third leading cause of death for both men and women. However, not all strokes are created equally; some types of strokes have a higher risk for fatality. The EIS officers explore the patterns of gender differences for stroke subtype mortality that vary among race/ethnicity and describe public health efforts to reduce the burden of stroke among all groups. (April 24, 2:30 p.m.)


"Risk Factors for Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Adolescents: An Audio-computer Self-interviewing Survey with Noninvasive Specimen Collection – Chiang Rai, Thailand, 1999," looks at the value of applying high-tech resources to a persistent problem among adolescents. The EIS officer explains that with the use of audio-computer-assisted self-interviewing and noninvasive specimen collection methods, they found high rates of drug use, unprotected sex and risky behavior among this adolescent population. These findings suggest that prevention programs should emphasize delaying sexual intercourse, safer sex and limiting the number of partners. (April 25, 3:30 p.m.)


"Consumption of Polychlorinated Biphenyl-Contaminated Great Lakes Fish is Associated with Low Birth Weight – Great Lakes Region, United States, 1970-1995," looks at PCBs and the consumption of contaminated fish. Because the consumption of fish has a beneficial effect on birth weight, the EIS officers examined the relations between maternal consumption of contaminated Great Lakes fish and low birth weight. (April 26, 8:30 a.m.)


"Mental Health Outcomes Among Expatriate Relief Workers – Kosovo, June 2000," examined psychological illness as an occupational hazard for expatriate relief workers assisting in countries affected by war and civil strife. Not previously studied, the EIS officers surveyed 410 expatriate relief workers from 22 humanitarian organizations to look at the possibility of depressive symptoms among this group to find out if post-traumatic stress disorder and depression were important mental health problems among this group. (April 27, 8:30 a.m.)


For more information about the EIS Conference, visit CDC on line at www.cdc.gov/eis.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) was founded at the CDC in 1951. That year, 22 young physicians and one sanitary engineer signed on as EIS Officers at CDC, where they received several weeks of instruction in epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health administration and then served for 2 years as field epidemiologists, either at CDC or in state health departments.

EIS has been in operation since then, and as the purview of CDC expanded beyond infectious diseases, so have the size and composition of EIS and the training of EIS officers. Public health surveillance, outbreak investigations, and research on the epidemiology of new diseases remain standard activities. EIS now has more than 2,000 alumni, including nearly 200 scientists from abroad. Many alumni have moved on to distinguished careers in academia, industry, and clinical practice, but many others have filled key positions at federal and state public health agencies. Trained to consider diseases as problems of populations, EIS alumni remain a valuable resource when disease outbreaks occur.

Headquartered at CDC, EIS is a unique 2-year, post-graduate program of service and on-the-job training for health professionals interested in the practice of epidemiology. Every year, CDC selects 60-80 persons from among the nation's top health professionals to enter the EIS and pursue on-the-job training in applied epidemiologic skills--skills vital to maintenance of public health.

EIS Officers continue to play a major role in the implementation of CDC's mission of preventing disease and injury and promoting healthful lifestyles. EIS officers serve in a variety of locations, including field assignment to state and local health departments and headquarters assignment to the centers, institutes, and offices of the CDC. Although international work may be part of any EIS assignment, no 2-year assignment is based outside the United States. Each year, approximately 25 percent of incoming EIS Officers are assigned directly to state or local health departments. The other 75 percent of officers are assigned to CDC headquarters. For more information about the EIS program, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/epo/dapht/eis/index.htm.

The CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes health living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

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Note to Reporters: To attend the conference and to arrange for interviews with current and former EIS officers, media should call (404) 639-3286.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 15, 2020
Last updated: March 15, 2020