50 Years of Accomplishments

Photo of Original CDC building
In 1946, the Communicable Disease Center (pictured at left) was located on the sixth floor of the Volunteer Building on West Peachtree Street, Atlanta, Georgia.

The 1940s

The Communicable Disease Center, or CDC, opens in the old “Office of Malaria Control in War Areas” in downtown Atlanta. Part of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), the CDC has a mission to work with state and local health officials in the fight against malaria (that was still prevalent in several Southern states), typhus, and other communicable diseases.
A token payment of $10 is made for 15 acres on Clifton Road in Atlanta, the current home of CDC headquarters.

The 1950s

The Epidemic Intelligence Services (EIS) is established. EIS quickly becomes the Nation’s --- and the world’s --- response team for a wide range of health emergencies. Its young, energetic medical officers make house calls around the world.

CDC broadens its focus to include polio and establishes closer relationships with the states. National disease surveillance systems begin.
The Polio Surveillance Unit is established. Ten years later, CDC assumes PHS responsibility for the control of polio; the disease almost disappears from the Western Hemisphere by 1991.
The Influenza Surveillance Unit is established.

The 1960s

CDC takes over publication of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), which publishes important public health updates and data on deaths and certain diseases from every state every week. The first cases of a new disease, later called AIDS, were reported in the MMWR in 1981.
CDC launches the Smallpox Eradication Program to eliminate smallpox and to control measles in 20 African countries. Through CDC’s efforts, smallpox, a disease that killed millions of people over the centuries, was eradicated from the world in the late 1970s.
CDC participates in the quarantine of astronauts returning from the first walk onthe moon, and the examination of moon rock specimens.

The 1970s

The Communicable Disease Center is renamed the Center for Disease Control to reflect a broader mission in preventive health.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which protects Americans from on-the-job hazards, becomes part of CDC.
CDC investigates an outbreak of illness in Philadelphia, now called Legionnaire’s disease. The following year, CDC isolates the causative agent for this disease: Legionella pneumophilia.
The last case of endemic smallpox in the world is reported in Somalia.
CDC opens an expanded, maximum-containment laboratory to handle viruses too dangerous to handle in an ordinary laboratory.
The last case of wild polio virus in the United States is reported.

The 1980s

The agency is renamed the Centers for Disease Control to reflect a change in organizational structure.
With the California Department of Health, CDC reports the first cases of an illness later known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and organizes a task force of personnel from each center to respond to evidence of an epidemic. AIDS research and prevention efforts continue today.
CDC establishes a Violence Epidemiology Branch to apply public health prevention strategies to the problems of child abuse, homicide, and suicide.
The Office of Smoking and Health, which targets the Nation’s primary preventable health problem, becomes part of CDC.
CDC reports a strong association between Reye syndrome and aspirin, noting that 90% of cases could be prevented by reducing aspirin treatment of children.

The National Center for Health Statistics becomes part of CDC.
CDC establishes the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion to target chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

A state-of-the-art viral and rickettsial disease laboratory is established.
CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) establish a collaborating center for disaster preparedness.

The 1990s

CDC begins development of a national strategic plan for the early detection and control of breast and cervical cancers among American women.

CDC conducts the first and largest scale health survey to employ computer-assisted interviewing.

To better reflect the responsibilities and future goals of CDC, the word National was added to the names of four centers: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, National Center for Environmental Health, National Center for Infectious Diseases, National Center for Prevention Services.
The agency adds prevention to its name (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to reflect a broader role and vision, but retains the familiar acronym CDC.
CDC launches the National Childhood Immunization campaign.
CDC goes onsite to Zaire to investigate an outbreak of deadly Ebola virus.

CDC recommends AZT therapy for HIV-infected pregnant women to reduce the rate of transmission of the virus to their babies.
CDC celebrates 50 years of success as the Nation’s Prevention Agency.

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