Sunday, March 15, 2009


The weather is GORGEOUS today! I walked to the grocery store this morning in flip-flops and a light sweater. Well, I was wearing other clothes, too.

Well, I survived outbreak week! In my Epidemiology and Control of Communicable Diseases class, we had a three-day outbreak investigation to be conducted in groups. We were first split into those investigating an outbreak in a developed country and those doing the same in a developing country. (I was developing, of course.) Then we were split into smaller groups of about 6. My group was pretty good. Could have been better, but also could have been a lot worse. Some of us were assigned characters and given a small amount of information, then we had to interview each other. Each group had to design a questionnaire to collect information from people, including what food they ate at the funeral. We started on Wednesday afternoon and had to turn in a final report (with charts and figures!) by Friday "evening."

For the developing countries, our scenario was that there had been a funeral in a small African village, and most of the attendees later became sick with watery diarrhea and vomiting. Three people died from the illness. We had to figure out what food or water source (if any) had been the source, and how the food or water source had become contaminated. The story turned out to be pretty gruesome. The original woman who died, for whom the funeral was held, had died of a diarrheal illness. Her daughter then "prepared" her body for burial, including conducting an enema. There had been no soap in the town for two weeks, so she didn't wash her hands. She then immediately prepared rice with goat meat sauce for the funeral the following day. It is unknown how she stored this contaminated food, but I think we can assume she didn't have a refrigerator. Nasty, huh? And we had to figure this out by interviewing 45 of our classmates and staff at the school. When figuring out food-specific attack rates (odds of getting sick if you eat any specific item), we found that you had five times increased odds of getting sick if you at the rice with goat meat sauce. Interestingly, peanuts appeared to have a protective effect, meaning that if you ate peanuts, you had somewhat decreased odds of getting sick versus someone who didn't eat peanuts. So now all my classmates have decided to eat lots and lots of peanuts.

We heard beforehand that this exercise was really intense and that last year, a group spent the night at the school just to finish it in time! This terrified me and I was really worried that I would get an insane group that wanted to work through the night. But when it came down to it, I didn't even care that I was at school until 11pm on Thursday and 9pm on Friday. It was kinda fun! I say that because I wasn't in charge of any of the statistical analyses. Phew! Afterwards, I enjoyed a glass of red wine and some amazing eggplant parmigiana, and I didn't feel sick the next day! (BTW, I've decided I have acid reflux or something, and have been taking lots of Tums, though I realize I should really see a doctor. Eventually...)

Anyway, essay time now. Bye!


  1. Your friends may want to keep in mind that peanuts are highly susceptible to a mold that makes them carcinogenic.

  2. Sounds like a cool project! I have acid reflux, by the way. I haven't been "diagnosed," but I can just tell...that's all I'll say. Maybe it runs in the family.

  3. migrainemaven3/18/2009 5:17 PM

    Well, what was the disease?

    Amebic dysentery? Cholera? Salmonella? What??

  4. That was a cool project! This assignment reveals so much -- how basic sanitation, access to clean water, education, and, uh, I guess refrigeration can prevent so much suffering. Kusems, could we form a study group together? I can do the math and analysis part, Ms. Petey can do the data gathering, and you can sit in a lab by yourself and grow cultures! Perfect!