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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC) is a United States federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services based in Atlanta, Georgiamarker. It works to protect public health and safety by providing information to enhance health decisions, and it promotes health through partnerships with state health departments and other organizations. The CDC focuses national attention on developing and applying disease prevention and control (especially infectious diseases), environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, prevention and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.


The CDC was founded in 1942 during World War II as the Office of National Defense Malaria Control Activities. Preceding its founding, organizations with global influence in malaria control were the Malaria Commission of the League of Nations and the Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation greatly supported malaria control, sought to have the governments take over some if its efforts, and collaborated with the agency.

The new agency was a branch of the U.S. Public Health Service and Atlanta was chosen as the location because malaria was endemic in the Southern United States. The agency changed names (see infobox on top right) before adopting the title Communicable Disease Center in 1946. Offices were located on the sixth floor of the Volunteer Building on Peachtree Street. With a budget at the time of about $1 million, 59 percent of its personnel were engaged in mosquito abatement using the insecticide DDT and habitat control with the objective of control and eradication of malaria in the United States. Among its 369 employees, the main jobs at CDC were originally entomology and engineering. In CDC's initial years, more than six and a half million homes were sprayed. In 1946, there were only seven medical officers on duty and an early organization chart was drawn, somewhat fancifully, in the shape of a mosquito.

CDC leader Dr. Joseph Mountin continued to advocate for public health issues and to push for CDC to extend its responsibilities to many other communicable diseases. In 1947, CDC made a token payment of $10 to Emory Universitymarker for of land on Clifton Road in DeKalb County, the home of CDC headquarters today. CDC employees collected the money to make the purchase. The benefactor behind the “gift” was Robert Woodruff, Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Company. Woodruff had a long-time interest in malaria control; it had been a problem in areas where he went hunting.

The mission of CDC expanded beyond its original focus on malaria to include sexually transmitted diseases when the Venereal Disease Division of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) was transferred to the CDC in 1957. Shortly thereafter, Tuberculosis Control was transferred (in 1960) to the CDC from PHS, and then in 1963 the Immunization program was established.

It became the National Communicable Disease Center (NCDC) effective July 1, 1967. The organization was renamed to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on June 24, 1970, and Centers for Disease Control effective October 14, 1980. An act of the United States Congress appended the words "and Prevention" to the name effective October 27, 1992; however, Congress directed that the initialism CDC be retained because of its name recognition. CDC now operates under the Department of Health and Human Services umbrella.

Currently the CDC focus has broadened to include chronic diseases, disabilities, injury control, workplace hazards, environmental health threats, and terrorism preparedness. CDC combats emerging diseases and other health risks, including birth defects, West Nile virus, obesity, avian, swine, and pandemic flu, E. coli, auto wrecks, and bioterrorism, to name a few. The organization would also prove to be an important factor in preventing the abuse of penicillin.

In May 1994 the CDC admitted to have sent several biological warfare agents to Iraq from 1984 through 1989, including Botulinum toxin, West Nile virus, Yersinia pestis and Dengue fever virus.

The CDC has one of the few Biosafety Level 4 laboratories in the country, as well as one of only two official repositories of smallpox in the world. The second smallpox store resides at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTORmarker in the Russian Federationmarker.

Budget and workforce

CDC’s 2008 budget was $8.8 billion. As of 2008, staff numbered ~15,000 (including 6,000 contractors and 840 Commissioned Corps officers) in 170 occupations. Almost 40 percent of staff have a master’s degree; 25 percent have a Ph.D.; and 10 percent have medical degrees. CDC job titles also include engineer, entomologist, epidemiologist, biologist, physician, veterinarian, behaviorial scientist, nurse, medical technologist, economist, Public Health Advisor, health communicator, toxicologist, chemist, computer scientist, and statistician.

In addition to the Atlanta headquarters, the CDC has 10 other locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Those locations include Anchorage, Alaskamarker; Cincinnati, Ohiomarker; Fort Collins, Coloradomarker; Hyattsville, Marylandmarker; Morgantown, West Virginiamarker; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker; Research Triangle Park, North Carolinamarker; San Juan, Puerto Ricomarker; Spokane, Washingtonmarker; and Washington, D.Cmarker.

The CDC also conducts the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the world’s largest, on-going telephone health survey system.


At present, the President of the United States appoints the director. The appointment is automatic, and does not require approval by the Senate. The director serves at the pleasure of the President, and may be fired at any time. Fifteen directors have served CDC or its predecessor agencies.

Organizational restructuring

On April 21, 2005 then-director of CDC, Dr. Julie Gerberding, formally announced the reorganization of CDC to "confront the challenges of 21st-century health threats". The four Coordinating Centers—established under the Bush Administraiton and Gerberding—"diminished the influence of national centers under its umbrella" and were ordered cut under the Obama Administration and Frieden in 2009.


The CDC Foundation operates independently from CDC as a private, nonprofit 501 organization incorporated in the State of Georgia. The creation of the Foundation was authorized by section 399F of the Public Health Service Act to support the mission of CDC in partnership with the private sector, including organizations, foundations, businesses, educational groups, and individuals.

Data and survey systems

Publications and film

The CDC campus in Atlanta houses facilities for the research of extremely dangerous biological agents. This setting was featured in the Dustin Hoffman film Outbreak, although the location depicted in the film was supposed to be the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseasesmarker bio-research facility. The CDC figures prominently in the book "Ready to Go: The History and Contributions of U.S. Public Health Advisors" by B.E. Meyerson, F.A. Martich and G.P. Naehr (ASHA, 2008). The CDC labs figure prominently in the books "The Demon in the Freezer" and "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston and "Virus Hunter" by C.J. Peters, former head of the Special Pathogens Branch at the CDC. The "Atlanta Plague center" which is in all likelihood a fictionalized version of the CDC appears in the Stephen King book The Stand.

See also


  1. Home Page. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
  2. " Druid Hills CDP, GA." United States Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 5, 2009.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The History of Malaria, an Ancient Disease. Atlanta, GA, 2004.
  4. Beth E. Meyerson, Fred A. Martich, and Gerald P. Naehr (2008). Ready to Go: The History and Contributions of U.S. Public Health Advisors. (Research Triangle Park: American Social Health Association).
  5. "The eleventh plague: the politics of biological and chemical warfare" (p. 84-86) by Leonard A. Cole (1993)
  6. Wilgoren, Debbi and Shear, Michael D. "Obama Chooses NYC Health Chief to Head CDC." Washington Post. May 16, 2009.
  7. Etheridge, Elizabeth W. Sentinel for Health: A History of the Centers for Disease Control. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1992. ISBN 0520071077; Patel, Kant; Rushefsky, Mark E.; and McFarlane, Deborah R. The Politics of Public Health in the United States. M.E. Sharpe, 2005. ISBN 076561135X.
  8. "Past CDC Directors/Administrators." Office of Enterprise Communication. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February 19, 2009. Accessed 2009-05-19.
  9. Records of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Administrative History. Accessed 2009-10-04.
  10. New Chief Orders CDC to Cut Management Layers
  11. Multi-functional Coffins

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