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Environmental Health Specialist Network


Foodborne disease outbreaks and case-control studies conducted through the federally funded Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) have demonstrated important food safety problems at commercial food establishments. EHS-Net was formed to address this issue. <P> The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) was integrally involved with the formation of EHS-Net, and has been an active and productive participant in the program since its inception. This program has helped MDH bring together a network of environmental health specialists who collaborate with epidemiologists to identify and prevent environmental factors contributing to foodborne disease. Likewise, EHS-Net has increased the capacity of MDH and local health departments to deliver environmental health services in the community.<P> The integration of epidemiology and environmental health with regard to waterborne disease and water safety has been less complete. Outbreaks due to recreational water are documented rather frequently. Drinking water outbreaks, while documented less frequently, can occur in spectacular fashion and have enormous public health effects.<P> Two case-control studies of sporadic cryptosporidiosis cases among Minnesota residents have identified well water consumption as a risk factor. Thus, more in-depth public health evaluation of drinking water safety is clearly needed. <P> MDH's overall objectives with regard to EHS-Net are as follows: 1) to continue to use the program to identify food safety problems in commercial food establishment in Minnesota and to identify and implement practical prevention measures to mitigate these problems; and 2) to develop an EHS-Net program to identify public health problems associated with water, particularly drinking water from small systems, and to identify and implement prevention measures to reduce the occurrence of waterborne disease. <P> Specific aims with regard to food and drinking water safety include: 1) to monitor and document risk factors and prevention policies during outbreaks and routine environmental health inspections; 2) to conduct applied behavioral, environmental, epidemiologic, and laboratory research on factors contributing to disease transmission; 3) to evaluate food and drinking water safety service programs and their activities; 4) to implement and evaluate pilot prevention and intervention projects; and 5) to develop and disseminate the results of network activities and projects to the environmental and public health communities.<P> Food safety activities will include completion of ongoing studies and initiation of new studies as determined by the EHSNet Steering Committee. Proposed water safety activities include a detailed description of drinking waterprograms and activities in Minnesota for small, non-Safe Drinking Water Act Sources, and detailed studies to ivaluate the potential relationship of human cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis cases to these systems.

Danila, Richard
Minnesota Department of Health
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