Foodborne illness monitors return to work at CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have brought back nearly a full staff of doctors and scientists to monitor foodborne illness in the United States.

"Earlier in the shutdown we had only one person on Pulsenet (the foodborne illness network)," CDC Public Affairs director Barbara Reynolds told CBS News. "But we're now bringing in almost a full staff to monitor the salmonella outbreak and 30 others."

The CDC typically monitors disease-causing microbes that signal multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks.The agency announced it was bringing in more staff the same day officials issued a health alert to Americans over a multi-state salmonella outbreak.

CDC officials had been looking at the shutdown as a short-term problem but now consider it a long-term challenge. As such, they deemed those outbreak specialists "essential" and brought them back to work. All information-sharing and lab work is returning to normal levels.

CDC director Tom Frieden previously told CBS Newslast week that two-thirds of his agency's workforce had been furloughed due to the shutdown.

"If there is a outbreak of food-borne illness that affects people in multiple states, we may not identify it promptly," he said at the time.

Health officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday urged consumers to cook chicken thoroughly and take other precautions after an 18-state salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms facilities in California has made more than 250 people sick in recent months.

It was not clear whether the CDC's staffing affected the agency's response to the salmonella outbreak.

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