Last week, global media company Great Big Story released a four-minute short film, The Disease Detectives Stop Outbreaks at Their Source, which highlights CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (also known as Disease Detectives). The film sought to learn more about risks from the potentially-deadly leptospirosis in the US Virgin Islands (USVI). Caitlin Cossaboom, who works in CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) is featured in the film. She was among the eight Disease Detectives and two laboratorians who worked tirelessly with the USVI Department of Health in the largest such investigation to date.
The islands reported their first cases of leptospirosis following the hurricanes in 2017. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. Without treatment, it can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death. To learn more about leptospirosis activity on the island, the Disease Detectives visited more than 7,000 homes, enrolling more than 1,200 people on three islands over a month. Their work will help establish how large the problem is in USVI and what factors may put people at greater risk. USVI Department of Health can use this information to guide its outreach to residents, ultimately helping people get treatment and potentially saving lives.