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Press Release

March 18, 2003
Contact: CDC Media Relations

CDC Welcomes IOM Report on Microbial Threats to Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today welcomed a report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on microbial threats to health, and renewed its ongoing commitment to modernize public health systems, focus greater attention on infectious disease trends abroad, and expand science training capacity for essential disciplines.

The new report, Microbial Threats to Health, highlights accomplishments and challenges in controlling infectious diseases. The report calls on the agencies that comprise the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to build on gains made in the last decade in a time of heightened disease threats from both natural and intentional sources. The report comes at the moment that CDC is working with the World Health Organization and health authorities around the world to isolate and identify the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a new, emerging infection.

The report updates one from 1992, and provides a composite review of public health knowledge and policies to respond to emerging infectious diseases including human demographics and behaviors, microbial adaptation and changes, control of vector-borne infectious diseases, influence of the environment on microbe distribution and viability, human treat from zoonosis, impact of globalization, and public health safety measures.

“The public health upgrades recommended in this report can help protect the country from bioterrorist acts as well as the underlying threat of naturally occurring infectious disease,” CDC Director Dr. Julie L. Gerberding said. “We’ve come a long way, since September 11, 2001, in strengthening our public health surveillance and response systems. Now, under the leadership of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, our bioterrorism preparedness is greatly enhanced and better coordinated than ever before.”

Since 1992, CDC has advanced a series of innovations in disease tracking, enhanced by advancements in electronic communications technology. For example, through the PulseNet system CDC can now rapidly identify and “fingerprint” specific strains of foodborne pathogens, enabling the agency to more readily link geographically dispersed cases of foodborne illness to a common source of tainted food.

“In a country as large and diverse as ours, PulseNet greatly improves our ability to spot trouble in the food supply and narrow down the source of it, when time matters most,” Dr. James Hughes, Director of CDC’s National Center for Infectious Diseases (CDC), said. “This is just one example of the kind of investment CDC has made in improving our capabilities to track and monitor disease outbreaks.”

CDC officials agree with the IOM committee that the emergence of new microbes, especially those that have become resistant to antimicrobial drugs, together with the enhanced threat of bioterrorism, require heightened public health vigilance and a stronger response capacity.

“This is not the time to become complacent,” Gerberding said. “We have the knowledge to greatly reduce the threat of infectious diseases, and by taking a coordinated approach and using the technological resources now available, we can do just that.”

For more information on emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, visit CDC’s web site at

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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.


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This page last updated March 18, 2003

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