Canada and U.S. link databases to facilitate tracing of food outbreaks
August 11, 2005
TORONTO -- Public health officials on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border will, according to this story, be able to trace outbreaks of nasty foodborne pathogens like E. coli with greater ease from now on, thanks to an international agreement that will be signed Friday.
The story says that electronic databases maintained by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will be formally linked, allowing investigators in both countries to chase down more rapidly and efficiently outbreaks of foodborne illness that can often be hard to spot because they occur over multiple states and provinces.
Dr. Frank Plummer, scientific director of the agency's National Microbiology Laboratory, explained Thursday, "A lot of our food systems are very highly integrated. So what's happening in Canada can be happening in the U.S. and what's happening in the U.S. can be happening in Canada."
Dr. Robert Tauxe, head of the CDC's foodborne division, was cited as saying that given the links between the countries and their food supplies, such co-operation makes sense, adding, "The foods go back and forth. The animals go back and forth. And the people go back and forth."
In a ceremony at the agency's Winnipeg headquarters, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins will sign a formal agreement linking PulseNet Canada with the database after which it is named, the CDC's
Additional PulseNet systems are in the works for Latin America, Europe and countries of the Pacific Rim, extending the investigative capacities of the linked databases.
The story goes on to say that benefits of such information sharing were evident Thursday, when public health officials in Yukon received confirmation that an American tourist who'd been treated for E. coli O157:H7 wasn't infected in Whitehorse, but before she left her southern U.S. home thousands of kilometres away.
The genetic fingerprint of the pathogen showed she was actually part of an outbreak involving people in more than eight U.S. states. Investigators there have discovered the source of the infection, contaminated hamburger meat. U.S. agricultural officials have traced the source of the meat and are considering whether a recall is needed.