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Occupational Health News Roundup

CDC investigates diacetyl exposure in coffee production facilities; Supreme Court rules in favor of workers’ First Amendment rights; Latino workers still face the greatest fatality risks at work; and a job-seeking experiment finds women bear the brunt of age discrimination in the job market.

As summer approaches, mosquito bites will become common, and the Zika virus could start spreading in parts of the continental US. Although public health officials are working hard to address this threat, the response from many lawmakers has been disappointing and, in some cases, erected barriers to successful research.

A recent study finds vaccine refusals have, indeed, accelerated the resurgence of whooping cough and measles here in the U.S. The findings are making headlines around the country — and comment sections are filling up with vitriol from anti-vaxxers — but it would feel amiss not to highlight the study on a blog dedicated to public health. But first, let’s remind ourselves of the pain and suffering that preceded vaccines.

In another example of the value of investing in public health, a recent study finds that PulseNet, a national foodborne illness outbreak network, prevents about 276,000 illnesses every year, which translates into savings of $507 million in medical costs and lost productivity. That’s a pretty big return on investment for a system that costs just $7.3 million annually to operate.

Another day, another study on the potentially life-saving impact of vaccines. This time it’s a new study on the vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. Earlier this week, researchers announced that since the vaccine came on the scene, rates of HPV among young women in the U.S. have plummeted.

President Obama released his 2017 federal budget proposal yesterday, recommending funding boosts for a number of public health priorities. And even though his presidency is coming to an end and so this budget is probably dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Congress, it’s worth a peek inside.

In the midst of another national debate over gun safety regulations, some argue that higher rates of gun ownership will protect people from dangerous strangers with deadly intentions. Physician and public health researcher Michael Siegel set out to study that argument. He ultimately found no relationship between gun ownership and stranger-related firearm homicides. But he did find that gun ownership levels translated into higher homicide risks for one group in particular — women.

These days, there’s a lot of attention on finding new and creative ways to turn around the nation’s opioid abuse and overdose problem. And it’s attention that’s very much needed because the problem is only getting worse.

Re-run from May 27, 2015: For more than a decade, biologist Mariam Barlow has been working on the theory that administering antibiotics on a rotating basis could be a solution to antibiotic resistance. After years of research, Barlow had lots of data, but she needed a more precise way to make sense of it all — something that was so specific it could easily be used to treat patients. So, she joined forces with a team of mathematicians. And the amazing results could help solve an enormous, worldwide problem.

I usually shy away from getting too personal in my work. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving and as a new mom, I was thinking about things for which I’m particularly grateful. One of the first things that came to mind as a public health reporter? Vaccines. So, in that vein, let’s celebrate some new and promising numbers on the worldwide effort to eliminate measles.