The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday that the number of state-level epidemiologists–who often serve as the frontline in detecting and tracking foodborne illness outbreaks–has decreased steadily since 2004 and has dropped 10 percent since 2006.

scientist.jpg“The current condition of national epidemiology is a preparedness and public health vulnerability,” said Mr. James Hadler, lead author of the report, released by CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

“[Say] bye bye to first line of defense versus pandemic, bio-terror, food poisoning,” tweeted ABC producer, Brian Hartman, in response to the MMWR’s finding yesterday.

“Epidemiological capacity is essential for detection, control, and prevention of major public health problems,” noted the report, which blamed fluctuating state and local budgets for the diminished epidemiology capacity.

The report also noted that nearly 20 percent of current public health epidemiologists anticipate retiring or changing careers in the next five years.

According to the report, patching together the epidemiological safety net is going to require some teamwork, “Working together, federal, state, and local agencies should develop a strategy to address downward trends and major gaps in epidemiology capacity.”