Tag Archives: Public Health Thank You Day

Thank your local public health professional today and every day

It started in Tennessee: one patient with an unusual recurrence of meningitis. An infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University worked the case like a detective, tracking down a lead. When the detective work led to an unusual suspect – a possible contamination – the Tennessee Department of Health was promptly notified. And when Tennessee public health specialists feared the contamination might be widespread, they contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In short order, a second federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and most states in the eastern half of the country were working to solve a puzzling fungal meningitis outbreak that affected thousands of people.

Although the outbreak continues, much has been accomplished thus far to protect the public’s health. The contaminated medicines have been recalled, the company that produced them has been closed down, and nearly all of the people who may have been infected have been contacted. The incident serves as a front-page reminder of the critical role that public health professionals play every day.

According to ABC News, the initial diagnosis came from April Pettit, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. A patient she treated for bacterial meningitis was readmitted to her hospital. Pettit ordered more exhaustive testing, which led to a rare diagnosis: aspergillus meningitis, which is caused by a type of fungus. Pettit talked with the patient’s family members to try to discover how such an infection could have taken place.

Soon, she found a possible answer. The patient had received a steroid shot four weeks earlier to relieve back pain. Sensing there could be a connection, Pettit contacted the Tennessee Department of Health.

That contact led to Marion Kainer, MD, MPH, who is in charge of the state’s health care-associated infections prevention efforts. She confirmed the details of Pettit’s patient just as other cases in the Nashville area were popping up. Three days after Pettit’s initial contact with Kainer, the state alerted its health care network about the potential outbreak. As CDC began to accelerate its role – it had been consulted since the beginning – the FDA also became actively involved in the investigation.

On September 27, the CDC – after putting out a nationwide alert – received a report of fungal meningitis from North Carolina. As the picture became clearer, more states became involved and CDC devoted more of its personnel to the investigation.

“In terms of ratcheting up the [CDC’s] response, several things became apparent fairly early on,” J. Todd Weber, MD, the CDC’s incident manager for the response, told Research!America. “One was that this was a true outbreak, not a unique patient experience. Among the possible sources of exposure were several products that had national or near-national distribution. Our investigation made it apparent that there were many thousands of doses of what turned out to be the implicated drug. As we learned more about the outbreak with each passing day, more and more people became involved as part of their daily work here at CDC.”

Because of the urgency of the situation and the large number of people at CDC focusing on the outbreak, the agency decided early on to activate its Emergency Operations Center (EOC). While some people may think such a facility is primarily for natural disasters, Weber said the outbreak certainly qualified as a man made disaster. Indeed, the EOC had a crucial role in CDC’s response during the H1N1 pandemic and, had it existed in 2001, would’ve been used for responding to the anthrax attacks, Weber said.

The EOC diverts CDC personnel from their normal duties, so Weber said the decision to activate it is not made lightly. But because of the demands of the outbreak – such as helping states with outreach to thousands of people, pulling together needed CDC experts into a centralized location – activating the EOC early in the fungal meningitis response made sense.

“At the time we activated it, there were over 10,000 people who had been potentially exposed to this infection,” Weber said. “And there was nothing we knew at that point that didn’t suggest that all 10,000 of those people might have become ill.”

Weber noted that one of CDC’s objectives was to support the states during the response, and he believes that mission has been achieved. As an example, CDC has facilitated daily conference calls with all of the 23 states that received shipments of the contaminated steroids, resulting in discussions and exchange of current information among state officials. And CDC supported the states’ efforts to reach hospitals, clinics, professionals and patients who were affected.

The reality is that such large-scale outbreaks are thankfully rare. But CDC collaborates with health departments from across the country on a daily basis. At points during the outbreak, agency officials were in contact with all 50 states to keep them up to date on developments.

There’s still more to be done. Because fungal meningitis was so rarely seen prior to the outbreak, Weber likened it to a new disease; there is virtually no historic clinical information to rely on. CDC continues to focus on learning more about the fungal meningitis and other illnesses linked to this outbreak, and providing interim guidance on how to treat those who have been affected.

“It was all the different parts of public health that really worked here,” Weber said. “It was the front line clinicians; it was the local and state health departments who recognized what was going on; it was them having a federal resource that could reach out across states to share information and coordinate activities in a really flexible manner that made such a difference.”

“We brought together many groups at CDC, including the division responsible for healthcare-associated infections and the division with experts in fungal infections. Our fungal infections laboratory – the mycotics laboratory – [is] normally not at the center of public health attention,” he added. “But if we had not had this specialized laboratory as a resource, our response would have not been as good as it was.”

On Public Health Thank You Day, the fungal meningitis outbreak reminds us of the invaluable contributions of those professionals working behind the scenes to ensure that Americans stay safe. Even if you’ve never heard the term “mycotics,” or “healthcare-associated infections”, it’s good to know that there are people who are experts in these infectious disease threats, and that they’re looking out for us every day.

Every year we celebrate Public Health Thank You Day the Monday before Thanksgiving day. Be sure and thank your local public health professional today and every day.

Learn more here: http://www.researchamerica.org/ph_thank_you

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Week of Advocacy Underway

Dear Research Advocate,

With a stellar team of advocates from across the research community, we have been blitzing Capitol Hill this week with our message that we need cures, not cuts. Research!America and our partners have participated in more than 60 meetings with Members of Congress, including key leadership and their staff. My thanks to the 140+ groups that signed on to our community letter to congressional leadership. Many partners have activated their grassroots to join the call Congress day, and there is still time to join the In-District Drop-In day (today) and a social media push on Friday. We also encourage you to keep up the drumbeat with emails and phone calls to Hill offices. Beltway media have taken notice of our ads and the coordinated activity, with articles appearing in The Hill and National Journal.  

Based on our meetings this week, the message is definitely getting through that across-the-board cuts or more stringent caps on discretionary spending would hurt our nation far more than help it. But it was also clear that continued, outspoken advocacy is crucial. No option is off the table, and that means we must keep making the case. Staffers told us that providing concrete examples to illustrate what’s at stake is crucial, and no community is better equipped to drive the point home than ours. We saw that yesterday, when, for example, leaders of the Society for Neuroscience gave concrete examples of research at risk, and when advocates from the Parkinson’s Action Network who are living with this incredibly challenging illness described what stalled progress means for them. I am certain – 100% certain – that their advocacy influenced influential people.

The need for many more of us to engage was the message in the lead editorial in Science I co-authored with Research!America Board member and CEO of AAAS, Dr. Alan Leshner. In the editorial, we urge scientists not to stand back, but to speak up for research and make it clear to Congress that “No Science = No Growth,” quoting the words of former NSF Director Neal Lane. Research!America Chair The Hon. John Porter penned a letter to the editor expanding on Lane’s recent op-ed in The New York Times, reminding readers that research dollars are distributed based on peer review to every state and nearly every congressional district in the country. He calls on the lame-duck Congress to overcome partisan divides and step up now to prioritize research.

This afternoon, we are holding our post-election forum and award ceremony for the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award at AAAS. We’ll hear from Research!America Chair John Porter, Congressman Mfume, Dr. Mark McClellan and Matthew Cooper of the National Journal Daily. We will be reviewing what we learned about areas of common ground in the Congress from responses to our voter education initiative, Your Candidates-Your Health, and discussing advocacy strategies going forward. View full event details here and join us if you are in DC.

I was saddened to learn of the death of former Congressman Joe Early (D-MA). Rep. Early served for nearly 20 years, championing funding for NIH on the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations subcommittee, and at every other conceivable opportunity. He was an ardent supporter of Research!America in its start-up phase. We extend our sympathies to his family on their, and the nation’s, great loss.

Monday next week is Public Health Thank You Day, our annual salute to the unsung heroes of public health who keep us safe in so many ways. Please take a minute on Monday of Thanksgiving Week to do a shout-out to people you know who are making a big difference for health. Check out this link for details. And do enjoy Thanksgiving.  My letters will resume on Thursday, November 29.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America and Partners Salute Public Health Heroes as Recent Health Threats Affect Many Communities

Public Health Thank You Day, November 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC—November 15, 2012—On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Research!America and leading U.S. public health organizations  recognize public health professionals who work tirelessly every day to protect the health of all Americans.

Public Health Thank You Day 2012 honors all those unsung heroes who keep our drinking water safe and air clean, develop vaccines, track and contain deadly illnesses  and aid victims of devastating natural disasters. These everyday heroes include health inspectors, environmental health scientists, public health researchers, sanitation workers and many other dedicated workers.

“In recent weeks, the nation’s public health response has been put to a tremendous test. First, with the multistate meningitis outbreak that resulted in both illnesses and deaths, followed closely by Hurricane Sandy, which had a devastating impact on much of the Northeastern United States,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas R. Frieden MD, MPH. “These public health emergencies highlight the dedication of our public health heroes and responders.  As we observe Public Health Thank You Day, I am deeply grateful for their commitment, preparedness and constant vigilance to stand ready to keep our nation safe from public health threats.

In the recent meningitis outbreak, the CDC played a critical role identifying possible sources of contamination, tracking cases and communicating updates to citizens. During the height of Hurricane Sandy, the CDC provided emergency assistance and medical care to those affected, including food and water, medical supplies to prevent and treat injuries, clean-up and sanitation and mental health resources.

“On this special day let’s thank all of those heroes who work nonstop in often perilous conditions to ensure the health and well-being of their neighbors and all Americans,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “As we recover from the meningitis outbreak and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, more than ever we see the value of a strong investment in public health. American taxpayers get their money’s worth from supporting the CDC and its initiatives to fight and prevent health threats.”

Research!America’s Public Health Thank You Day partners include the Campaign for Public Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association, Association of Schools of Public Health, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National Association of County & City Health Officials, and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

Organizations wishing to celebrate Public Health Thank You Day can find downloadable web banners and ads, communication tools, poll findings and a Facebook group at www.publichealththankyouday.org.

Research!America is the nation’s largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, it is supported by member organizations that represent more than 125 million Americans. For more information, visit www.researchamerica.org.

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Public Health Thank You Day

Did you get a flu shot this year? Donate blood or give your time to health services? You are part of keeping our communities healthy, so thank you! In addition to your efforts, there are public health heroes around the county working tirelessly to protect our health each and every day. Even during the apogee of Hurricane Sandy, public health workers were providing emergency assistance and medical care to those affected. Please join Research!America and other leading public health organizations on November 19th, the Monday of Thanksgiving, to recognize the outstanding work of these public health professionals. To learn more about Public Health Thank You Day, please visit http://www.researchamerica.org/ph_thank_you or like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PHTD1.

Public Health Heroes Save Lives in the Meningitis Outbreak

On October 31st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported new cases of fungal meningitis in Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Virginia, bringing the total to 368 cases in the recent outbreak. This form of meningitis, which has been linked to contaminated steroid injections, is a serious disease that infects the brain and spinal cord. In the face of this tragedy, public health agencies and professionals have coordinated an excellent emergency response to the outbreak.

The CDC responded quickly, identifying possible sources of contamination, tracking cases and communicating updates to the nation. CDC experts and local public health workers have been working day and night to alert clinics and patients that may have received the contaminated medication. Through this diligence, over 97% of patients have already been contacted and experts are now working to identify individuals at greatest risk for infection. Because meningitis can be fatal, local public health workers are saving lives through early recognition of symptoms and appropriate treatment.

Despite the critical role played by CDC and the increasing demands it faces due to congressional mandates, funding for this agency has declined in recent years.  And unless policymakers change course, CDC will be swept up in dramatic, across the board budget cuts known as “sequestration.”  If these cuts go into effect, they will severely compromise CDC’s capacity to protect the public health. As it stands, limited funds make it far more difficult to respond to public health emergencies like the meningitis outbreak and mean that a majority of the work falls to smaller and smaller groups of dedicated individuals. These public health heroes must be recognized for their unflagging commitment to protecting the health of Americans. The Monday of Thanksgiving, Public Health Thank You Day, is the perfect opportunity to give thanks to these individuals and others around the nation. To learn more about PHTD, please visit http://www.researchamerica.org/ph_thank_you or like our PHTD Facebook page.  And to join other advocates fighting against sequestration, visit http://www.saveresearch.org.

 

World Polio Day

Source: CDC

On World Polio Day, established by Rotary International, the global health community comes together to celebrate successes and renew commitments to eliminate polio once and for all. Polio is a highly infectious disease and can cause irreversible paralysis, but thanks to past research efforts, there is a polio vaccine that can prevent the disease. This year, World Polio Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Launched in 2008 by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children’s Fund, GPEI is playing a critical role in the final push to immunize children around the world and eradicate this paralyzing disease. Rotary International, the first organization to become involved in the fight against polio, will have donated over $1.2 billion by 2013 and more than one million Rotary members have donated their time and personal resources to the effort. WHO oversees strategic planning for the initiative and develops standard guidelines for implementing vaccination programs. The CDC helps to train public health volunteers and CDC experts plan, implement and evaluate polio vaccine campaigns. The CDC is also responsible for polio surveillance, research and monthly reports on the progress toward global polio eradication.

The outstanding efforts of these public health agencies and workers have reduced the global incidence of polio from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 171 cases in four countries in 2012. These public health heroes are exactly the kind of individuals that Public Health Thank You Day was created to honor. Celebrated each year on the Monday of Thanksgiving, Public Health Thank You Day is an opportunity to recognize public health agencies, professionals, and volunteers like those from Rotary International who work to protect the health of Americans and others around the world. To learn more, please visit http://www.researchamerica.org/ph_thank_you or like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PHTD1.

-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern

Funding Public Health Saves Lives and Money

For every dollar spent on prevention, more than five dollars is saved in health spending. Every $1 spent on childhood vaccines saves $16.50 in future health care costs. To learn more about how public health research benefits our lives every day, please check out the American Public Health Association’s Public Health Infographic and make sure to thank your public health professionals on the Monday of Thanksgiving, Public Health Thank You Day.

 Source: APHA

Recognizing Public Health Heroes

On September 30, The Washington Post highlighted efforts in Haiti to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis. A neglected tropical disease (NTD), elephantiasis is a parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes that can lead to swelling of the arms or legs — sometimes severely enough that individuals with the disease are stigmatized or unable to work. The good news is that elephantiasis can be prevented with anti-parasitic medicines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s NTD program have taken a leadership role in administering these drugs in countries that are affected by elephantiasis. U.S. public health professionals have joined forces with local public health professionals and helped to organize programs, provide technical assistance and monitor progress. Through the collaborative efforts of these invaluable individuals, nine countries have already been declared free of elephantiasis. With support from the CDC and international charities, the Haitian health ministry is working hard to distribute this life-saving medication and join the list of countries free of elephantiasis.

This kind of outstanding work by public health professionals happens every day all around the world. Although there is no risk of elephantiasis in America, there are other NTDs emerging in the U.S. such as Chagas disease, West Nile virus and dengue fever. The CDC and other public health professionals play a crucial role in treating these diseases and organizing prevention and education campaigns here at home. These tireless individuals keep our drinking water safe, our air clean and our children healthy. Please join Research!America and other public health organizations in recognizing these public health heroes on November 19 for Public Health Thank You Day. For more information or to learn how you can get involved, please visit www.researchamerica.org/ph_thank_you or like our PHTD Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PHTD1.

-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern