California Harnesses the Internet to Fight Bacterial Outbreaks

To better flag information about deadly bacteria outbreaks, California's Department of Health Services recently went live with a new Internet-based system that will speed delivery of information on outbreaks, including salmonella, which involves raw or undercooked poultry.

DHS is using the system to move data on submitted specimens to the state's 39 health departments. However, the agency wants to open the system -- an upgraded, Internet version of the agency's Microbial Diseases Laboratory (MDL) system -- to enable hospitals clinics and doctors' offices check on bacterial or viral outbreaks.

"One of the things that is important to us is to have a system to get reports to our clients quickly," said Marilyn Capener, DHS chief of MDL training and quality assurance. Last year, about 173,000 cases of infectious disease were reported in California.

The Internet-based system is based on Java technology and uses IBM Corp.'s VisualAge Generator and VisualAge for Java and resides on an IBM Websphere application server. DHS hired IBM to upgrade the system, and seven IBM employees worked with state staff members to make the upgrades over three months. "It was a very intense period of time," Capener said.

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