Regardless of where they get their information from, Americans are very likely to learn almost instantly whenever there is an outbreak of bacterial pathogens—Salmonella, Listeria, or the “bad” Escherichia coli—from contaminated food products. This is a huge achievement and a great benefit for public health: The earlier this information reaches consumers, the less people will be affected and public health and other authorities have more time to identify and contain the source of the outbreak. However, despite its contribution to public health, most Americans are not aware that a little‐known government program called “PulseNet USA” detects nearly all foodborne outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria. This is a bit odd because PulseNet has not only been very efficient in detecting foodborne disease but has thereby positively impacted public health and saved millions of dollars since it was founded 20 years ago. PulseNet is now undergoing profound changes as it both expands internationally to protect consumers in other countries and invests heavily—financially and scientifically—in new technologies such as next‐generation sequencing (NGS) to further improve its capacity to detect food contaminations.
What is PulseNet
PulseNet is a national surveillance network based in Atlanta at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to detect outbreaks of foodborne bacterial pathogens in real time , . Most of the detection itself is done at 83 accredited state, local, and federal laboratories that are connected with each other via an efficient communications network. PulseNet—both the center in Atlanta and individual laboratories—works closely with epidemiologists and other public health officials to investigate the source of an outbreak, establish appropriated public health measures, and assist federal agencies with improving the safety of the food supply. Simply stated, PulseNet's goal is to link information about people who have likely consumed the same contaminated food, even if …
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