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Fast access to medical records helps fight epidemics

The New York Times, June 19, 2012

The spread of electronic medical records is helping "officials faced with events of public health significance to know sooner, act faster and manage better," said Dr. Seth Foldy, a senior adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In February, public health officials in Michigan noted an increase in electronic reports from clinical laboratories indicating E. coli cases in several counties. In less than a week, officials had enough evidence to warn the public that the infection appeared to be linked to clover sprouts in food at the Jimmy John's sandwich chain, said James Collins, director of the communicable diseases division at the state's Department of Community Health. The chain quickly removed the sprouts, and by April, the 11-state outbreak was over.