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Inside CDC's Scramble to Solve Mysterious Vaping Disease


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Vaping.

Investigators at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to build a new data collection system in order to investigate a spate of vaping-related injuries and deaths.

Credit: 6okean/Getty

Efforts by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate a spate of vaping-related injuries and deaths required building a new data-collection system on the fly, as well as the use of three-dimensional (3D) printing.

Macarena Garcia, chief data scientist for the investigation, realized data collection was a major challenge, since the agency's foodborne disease outbreak-tracking system was not sufficiently scalable, and differing data formats from states compounded these shortcomings.

Data managers had to write code enabling each state to transfer its information into the CDC system.

Since the questions states had asked patients were not uniform, Garcia's team had to create a separate, parallel system to collect the information.

Since the special smoking machines used to test aerosols from vaping devices associated with sick patients did not match with many vaping devices' rectangular mouthpieces, CDC scientists used 3D printers to manufacture custom interfaces.

From The Washington Post
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