CDC's Origins and Malaria

CDC’s origins are closely linked to malaria control activities in the US. On July 1, 1946, in Atlanta, the Communicable Disease Center was created as a new component of the U.S. Public Health Service. The new center was the direct successor of the Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, an agency established in 1942 to limit the impact of malaria and other vector-borne diseases (such as murine typhus) in the southeastern US during World War II. The center was located in Atlanta (rather than Washington, DC) because the South was the area of the country with the most malaria transmission.

In the ensuing years, CDC oversaw the US national malaria eradication program and provided technical support to activities in the 13 states where malaria was still endemic. (Dr. Justin M. Andrews, director of CDC from 1952 to 1953, was also director of the Division of Malaria and Hookworm Service of the Georgia Department of Public Health in Atlanta.) By 1951, malaria was considered eliminated from the United States. However, to the present day, malaria remains a major field of activities at CDC.

First CDC offices were in one floor of this building 1946.

The first CDC offices were in one floor of this building, 1946.

From its origins in malaria control, CDC has now grown to become the nation’s lead public health agency, whose mission is to “collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health – through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats.” CDC’s expansion and its evolving missions are reflected in a succession of name changes. While the Communicable Disease Center had fewer than 400 employees, today’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employs more than 14,000 employees in 54 countries and in 170 occupations.

Photograph of Dr. Justin M. Andrews

Dr. Justin M. Andrews

Page last reviewed: July 23, 2018