In Healthcare News released by the Laboratory Science, Policy, and Practice Program arm of the CDC, officials say that the sequester has hindered the investigation of the cyclospora outbreak that has sickened more than 600 Americans in 22 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has had to slash $285 million from its budget, when experts say the agency needs more funding as foodborne illness outbreaks become more complex and widespread.
Many people think the sequester has not affected them because they don’t see immediate and visible results. But programs from Meals on Wheels to Headstart to medical research, first responders, and food poisoning outbreak investigations have been affected.
The facilities of Taylor Farms, the largest supplier of leafy greens in the U.S., has undergone more than 1,800 tests for the parasite, and every one has returned negative. Taylor Farms de Mexico salad blend, served at Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants, has been linked to the outbreak in Iowa and Nebraska. The outbreak, which began in June 2013, has not been solved for more than half of the cases.
Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, said in a statement, “we’re coming to the conclusion that this may be two separate outbreaks. It’s very difficult to come up with any explanation that connects the two.”
One of the problems with this investigation is that public health officials don’t have the technology to grab a genetic fingerprint from the single-celled cyclospora parasite, as they can with bacteria using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. That test would tell investigators which illnesses are linked to a common source, according to Tauxe.