Boots on the Ground: CDC’s Disease Detective Conference

Epidemic Intelligence Services officers present findings on Ebola, EV D68, MERS and more

Press Release

For Immediate Release: Monday, April 20, 2015
Contact: Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will hold its 64th Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) conference April 20-23 in Atlanta. The event showcases recent ground-breaking and often times life-saving investigations by CDC disease detectives.

EIS officers will share details of investigations that placed them in the thick of some of the world’s most challenging public health events. Monday through Thursday, CDC’s EIS officers will present their research findings from U.S. and international-based investigations conducted over the past year. CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. will open the conference with remarks on Monday morning, and attend several sessions throughout the week.

During the past year, nearly every current EIS officer deployed either to West Africa or within the United States in support of the Ebola response. Ebola presentations at this year’s conference include:

  • Readying the Responders—Infection Control Training for US Clinicians Bound for West Africa: When Ebola cases began to surge in West Africa, it was clear that more doctors were needed to help. Get a look inside CDC’s rigorous 3-day training course in protective gear for clinicians volunteering to treat Ebola patients in West Africa.
  • Public Health Response to an Imported Case of Ebola Virus Disease — New York City, 2014: As healthcare workers return from West Africa, close monitoring and rapid response are critical to decrease the risk of Ebola in the U.S. Learn how New York City responded when a returning healthcare worker developed Ebola after working in a West African Ebola treatment unit.
  • Geospatial Analysis of Household Spread of Ebola Virus in a Quarantined Village – Sierra Leone, 2014: In West Africa, Ebola has spread quickly in remote villages. Disease detectives used Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and computer modeling to investigate how Ebola swept through one village in Sierra Leone, where cases occurred in 27 of 64 households.
  • Rapid containment of Ebola using contact tracing following an imported case of Ebola Virus Disease — Senegal, 2014: Ebola might well have become a much larger problem in Senegal but a rapid intervention by Senegal, WHO, CDC and others helped avert a major epidemic in the country.

As important as it is, Ebola is only one of many health threats that CDC disease detectives have investigated. Other featured presentations during the conference demonstrate the wide range of public health activities that EIS officers are involved in at CDC, including:

  • Severe Respiratory Illness Associated with a Nationwide Outbreak of Enterovirus D68—United States, 2014: A CDC disease detective investigated the largest reported national outbreak of EVD68 to better understand who was most affected. Most of the patients hospitalized with respiratory disease were children and many had a history of asthma; more than half required intensive care.
  • Norovirus Syndromic Surveillance Among Commercial Tour Bus Passengers: A Pilot Project — Yellowstone National Park, August 2014: During a pilot project, a CDC disease detective uncovered five potential norovirus clusters on overnight Yellowstone National Park tour buses in August 2014, a new way to potentially ruin a vacation.
  • The Role of Internet Meet-up Sites and Mobile Device Applications in Facilitating an Early Syphilis Outbreak — Multnomah County, Oregon, 2014: Are phone apps helping sexually transmitted diseases go viral? EIS officers looked at how technology is changing the way syphilis spreads—and how it may offer new tools for intervention.
  • Parking Prices and Walking and Bicycling to Work in U.S. Cities: Physical activity is important for health, but less than half of Americans get enough activity through recreation. Active commuting is another way more Americans could be physically active. Across several densely populated cities, the number of people walking to work is 3.4 percent higher for every extra dollar charged for a day’s parking.
  • Chikungunya and Dengue Virus Infections among United States Community Service Volunteers Returning from the Dominican Republic, 2014: In late 2013, chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne disease, was identified for the first time in the Americas in the Caribbean region. In August 2014, nearly half of the service volunteers who worked with an organization in the Dominican Republic during the summer months tested positive for Chikungunya virus infection.
  • Calls to U.S. Poison Centers Regarding Electronic Cigarettes — United States, September 2010–October 2014: A disturbing new trend: 58 percent of e-cigarette calls to U.S. poison centers are for concerns about exposures in young children.
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome–Coronavirus in an Extended Family: Risk Factors for Household Transmission—Saudi Arabia, 2014: In spring 2014, CDC disease detectives worked alongside Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health colleagues to investigate an outbreak of MERS in a Saudi extended family and were able to assess household interactions that may be important for spread of MERS.  Since then, MERS cases have continued to be identified in the Middle East.
  • Rapid Detection of a Winter Outbreak of Legionellosis — New York City, 2014–2015: For rapidly escalating community outbreaks, speed of response can help save lives. New tools are speeding detection of Legionnaire’s outbreaks, such as one in a large NYC housing complex.

Media interested in attending the conference should contact the CDC Media Office at 404-639-3286, or visit for more information.



Page last reviewed: April 20, 2015