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CDC Timeline 1940s - 1970s

Take a minute to review many of CDC's momentous contributions to public health since it was organized in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center.


2010s |  2000s  |  1990s  |  1980s |  1970s  |  1960s  |  1950s  |  1940s

1970s

  • 1979

    • CDC publishes the first Healthy People: The Surgeon General’s Report on Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The report establishes for the first time ambitious, quantifiable objectives for improving the nation’s health, to be achieved by 1990
    • A Lassa fever World Health Organization Collaborating Center is established in Sierra Leone
    • Investigates health effects related to the Three-Mile Island nuclear incident
    • CDC assumes lead responsibility in the U.S. Public Health Service for environmental emergency response
    • Last recorded wild case of polio in the United States
  • 1978

    • CDC publishes the first NIOSH/OSHA Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
    • Reports the first drug-resistant tuberculosis outbreak; causative organisms are found resistant to the three most commonly-used drugs
    • CDC holds the first international conference on Legionnaires’ disease
    • An expanded maximum containment laboratory (hot lab) is opened to handle viruses that are too dangerous to handle in ordinary laboratories
    • First national health objectives for 1990 established by CDC
  • 1977

    NIOSH reorganizes; assumes new mine safety and health responsibilities, and publishes Occupational Diseases: A Guide to Their Recognition
    • Receives the report of the last case of naturally-acquired variola minor, the milder strain of the variola virus that causes smallpox, from the Merca District of Somalia. The World Health Organization declares global eradication of smallpox in 1980
    • NIOSH reorganizes; assumes new mine safety and health responsibilities, and publishes Occupational Diseases: A Guide to Their Recognition
    • CDC isolates Legionella pneumophila, Legionnaires’ disease, the cause of the deadly outbreak at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania hotel
  • 1976

    CDC diagnoses two recruits at Fort Dix, New Jersey with swine flu and concludes that a deadly flu pandemic is on its way
    • CDC diagnoses two recruits at Fort Dix, New Jersey with swine flu and concludes that a deadly flu pandemic is on its way. A national immunization program is launched. No epidemic occurs, before the immunization campaign is terminated, several people contract Guillain-.Barré syndrome from the vaccine
    • National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health (precursor to the Office on Smoking and Health) transferred to CDC
    • Epidemiologists investigate a deadly outbreak of a respiratory disease among attendees at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania convention
    • CDC sends disease detectives to investigate two large outbreaks of an unknown deadly hemorrhagic fever in Zaire and Sudan, a disease later known as Ebola
    • Environmental Services Division analyzes blood samples collected through NHANES to demonstrate that the level of lead in blood is related to exposure to gasoline. Based on that data, the Environmental Protection Agency implements policies that decrease the amount of lead in gas by half from 1976 – 1980, subsequently dropping levels of lead in blood by 37%, and Congress is persuaded to phase out leaded gas permanently
    • Legionnaire’s disease discovery and response
    • Guillain-Barré syndrome associated with swine influenza vaccine
  • 1975

    • CDC establishes the vessel sanitation program in cooperation with the cruise ship industry
    • Dental Disease Prevention Activity is transferred to CDC, bringing with it the fluoridation program
    • The Chronic Disease Division is established to target cancer, birth defects, and environmental health issues
    • WHO Collaboration Center for leptospirosis is established
    • Begins to assist in visa and entry screening, immunization, and follow up of the health of Vietnamese refugees to the United States
    • First EIS assistance for injury (homicide in Georgia)
  • 1974

    Through the Study of the Efficacy of Nosocomial Infection Control (SENIC), CDC begins to monitor trends in hospital-acquired infection rates
    • CDC establishes Bureau of Health Education, developing health curriculum for schools
    • Liver cancer deaths in Louisville, Kentucky are investigated. Vinyl chloride is discovered as a new occupational hazard, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration sets standards to provide worker protection
    • Through the Study of the Efficacy of Nosocomial Infection Control (SENIC), CDC begins to monitor trends in hospital-acquired infection rates
  • 1973

    National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) transferred to CDC from Health Services & Mental Health Administration
    • CDC documents the first nationwide outbreak of Reye syndrome
    • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) transferred to CDC from Health Services & Mental Health Administration
    • Office of Biosafety is established
    • CDC begins regularly responding to public health crises abroad by providing famine assistance in sub-Saharan Africa
  • 1972

  • 1971

    • CDC recommends discontinuation of routine immunization and vaccination requirements for smallpox in the United States.
    • Investigations into lead exposure associated with an ore smelter in El Paso, Texas, increases the scientific understanding of the effects of lead poisoning in children, as it can affect children’s developing nerves and brains
    • CDC’s Phoenix laboratories discover that hepatitis B is sexually transmitted
    • The National Center for Health Statistics conducts the first National Health Examination Survey with a large nutrition component added. The survey name is changed to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Two subsequent surveys are conducted with the surveys becoming an annual event beginning in 1999
  • 1970

    • The National Communicable Disease Center (NCDC) is renamed Center for Disease Control (CDC)
    • The National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance system is established to monitor infections acquired in hospital settings
    • The Nutrition Program is transferred to CDC, charged with assessing severe malnutrition in the United States and abroad

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1960s

  • 1969

    CDC opens its first biological containment lab to protect scientists while they work with deadly and infectious pathogens
    • A national rubella immunization campaign begins
    • CDC opens its first biological containment lab to protect scientists while they work with deadly and infectious pathogens
    • Inter-Regional Seminar on Smallpox Eradication is held in Lagos, Nigeria to discuss the progress of the Smallpox Eradication Program. A ceremony in Niamey, the Republic of Niger, is held to celebrate the 100 millionth smallpox vaccination given in Africa
  • 1968

    • CDC investigates an unidentified, highly infectious respiratory disease in Pontiac, Michigan (later identified as Legionnaire’s disease)
    • Responds to its first major initiative in famine relief within Nigeria during the Biafran war, assisting local health officials in conducting nutrition and disease assessments
    • NCDC (National Communicable Disease Center) becomes a bureau within the U. S. Public Health Service
    • A tuberculosis surveillance system begins within the United States
    • Onset of “Hong Kong flu” influenza pandemic and response.
  • 1967

    • The Foreign Quarantine Service, one of the oldest units of the U.S. Public Health Service, is transferred to CDC
    • CDC begins the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP) a population-based tracking system for birth defects in collaboration with Georgia Mental Health Institute and the Emory University School of Medicine
    • Communicable Disease Center is renamed National Communicable Disease Center (NCDC) and the title of Chief of the Center is changed to CDC Director
  • 1966

    CDC announces a national measles eradication campaign at the American Public Health Association meeting
    • CDC announces a national measles eradication campaign at the American Public Health Association meeting
    • The International Malaria Eradication Program is turned over to CDC from the Agency for International Development (AID)
    • Smallpox Eradication Program is established to manage AID-funded Smallpox Eradication/Measles Control Program in African countries
    • Global Smallpox eradication effort launched
  • 1965

    • New surveillance systems added to the original National Surveillance Program of 1952 include measles, shigellosis, tetanus, and trichinosis
    • A four-week smallpox campaign launches in Anapa, Brazil to demonstrate and evaluate the jet injector equipment in field operations under a variety of conditions
    • The special Interagency Committee on Back Contamination (ICBC) is created to determine how to protect Earth from moon contamination
  • 1964

    First jet injector studies with smallpox vaccine are conducted in the country of Tonga
    • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) approaches CDC for help to ensure that germs from Earth do not get transported into space
    • Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP established)
    • CDC holds first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), to provide advice and guidance on the appropriate use of biologics and other preventive medical agents for effective disease control in the civilian population
    • Hospital Infections Unit is established as part of epidemiology program
    • First jet injector studies with smallpox vaccine are conducted in the country of Tonga
    • First Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health
  • 1963

    The Aedes aegypti Eradication Branch is established to eradicate this mosquito from the Americas as well as to protect against outbreaks of yellow fever and dengue fever
    • Immunization Assistance Grant Program is established and CDC administers Vaccination Assistance Act through project grants. The program is designed to raise and maintain high levels of immunization against; poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus
    • The Aedes aegypti Eradication Branch is established to eradicate this mosquito from the Americas as well as to protect against outbreaks of yellow fever and dengue fever
    • All state health departments, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture join CDC in establishing the Salmonella Surveillance Program
  • 1962

    • The Audiovisual Training Branch changes its name to National Medical Audiovisual Facility, establishing it as the central audiovisual facility for the U. S. Public Health Service (renamed National Medical Audiovisual Center and administratively transferred to the National Library of Medicine in 1967)
    • Establishes laboratory Consultation and Development Section to upgrade laboratory performance and promote increased standardization.
    • First EIS investigation for chronic disease (leukemia cluster)
  • 1961

    • CDC takes over publication of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the National Office of Vital Statistics. MMWR is a weekly publication, containing a few short narrative reports and the weekly morbidity and mortality tables. It also publishes the annual “Summary of Notifiable Diseases”
    • An investigation into a cancer cluster in Niles, Illinois expands CDC reach into chronic diseases
  • 1960

    Opens new permanent headquarters buildings in Atlanta, Georgia
    • Tuberculosis Program transfers from the U. S. Public Health Service to CDC. The Tuberculosis laboratory is already in Atlanta at Lawson General Hospital, having moved there several years earlier
    • First National Health Examination Survey is conducted to collect data on the total prevalence of certain chronic diseases as well as the distribution of various physical and physiological measures
    • Opens new permanent headquarters buildings in Atlanta, Georgia

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1950s

  • 1959

    Standard New Jersey light trap is modified to create the CDC light trap, a light-weight and portable mosquito trap to collect samples in swamps and remote areas where electricity is not available
    • Fluorescent antibody test is developed for rabies and field trials demonstrate 100 percent accuracy.
    • Staphylococcus Surveillance Unit is established to coordinate information, compile references and review directives and reports on hospital-acquired infections.
    • Standard New Jersey light trap is modified to create the CDC light trap, a light-weight and portable mosquito trap to collect samples in swamps and remote areas where electricity is not available
  • 1958

    • Epidemics of cholera and smallpox prompt the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) to send a CDC team of EIS officers to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to conduct an epidemiological study and to give epidemic aid
    • CDC investigates the first recorded epidemic of inhalation anthrax in the 20th century at a goat hair processing plant in Manchester, New Hampshire
    • CDC participates in a cooperative program to develop accurate, standard cholesterol measurement procedures. From this research the Cholesterol Standardization Program is developed
  • 1957

    The Venereal Disease Division is transferred from the U.S. Public Health Service to CDC, bringing two important innovations to CDC's activities: a grant program and a new kind of employee, public health advisors.
    • Onset of “Asian flu” influenza pandemic and response
    • Asian flu pandemic emerges in Hong Kong with millions of cases and thousands of deaths. CDC quickly sets up an influenza surveillance unit, a joint operation of the Epidemiology and Laboratory Branches
    • The Venereal Disease Division is transferred from the U.S. Public Health Service to CDC, bringing two important innovations to CDC’s activities: a grant program and a new kind of employee, public health advisors.
  • 1956

    • The first practical use for the fluorescent antibody technique is utilized in CDC laboratories to research communicable diseases of bacterial origin
  • 1955

    During the National Polio Immunization Program, EIS officers trace 260 polio cases to improper vaccine production methods. As a result, CDC establishes the Polio Surveillance Program
    • During the National Polio Immunization Program, EIS officers trace 260 polio cases to improper vaccine production methods. As a result, CDC establishes the Polio Surveillance Program
    • Inactivated polio vaccine licensed; “Cutter incident” investigated
    • CDC gains worldwide recognition for the quality and quantity of its contributions to the taxonomy of the Enterobacteriaceae, a family of germs that are difficult to treat because of their resistance to antibiotics
  • 1954

    National Rabies Control Activities Unit is established, providing a coordinated program for all aspects of the disease
    • National Rabies Control Activities Unit is established, providing a coordinated program for all aspects of the disease
    • EIS is expanded to include other professional disciplines besides medicine
  • 1953

    • CDC reports first case of rabies in a bat
    • The Communicable Disease Center National Surveillance Program is developed to maintain constant vigilance over communicable diseases to respond immediately when an outbreak occurs
    • Twenty EIS officers collaborate in the National Program for the Evaluation of Gamma Globulin in the Prophylaxis of Poliomyelitis
    • The U.S. Public Health Service becomes part of the newly-created Cabinet-level Department of Health, Education and Welfare after the Federal Security Agency is dissolved
    • First EIS investigations on environmental exposure (trichloroethylene and occupational exposure (anthrax)
  • 1952

    • The Epidemic Intelligence Service participates in 205 outbreaks; most common are infectious hepatitis, poliomyelitis, histoplasmosis, gastroenteritis, encephalitis, typhoid fever, leptospirosis and influenza
    • Reorganization of CDC reduces the number of branches into five well-defined spheres of activity: Epidemiology, Training, Technology, Laboratory, and Administrative
  • 1951

  • 1950

    • A team of CDC physicians, engineers, and entomologists is sent to Southeast Asia to assist in developing malaria control programs and public health programs as part of an overall technical and economic assistance program
    • CDC begins to withdraw from active participation in the operational phases of the National Malaria Eradication Program and discontinues the Malaria Control Residual Spray Program, shifting interest to surveillance, supporting training programs, consultation and research studies with the states
    • A committee on air-borne disease studies is established, with emphasis on sampling techniques and devices adaptable to biological warfare defense

1940s

  • 1949

    • The Production Division is renamed the Audio-Visual Production Division, producing more than 50 health films for field training
    • CDC’s Reference Diagnostic Service Center becomes available to all public health laboratories.  Practicing physicians who have hard-to-identify specimens submit through their health departments
    • Last case of smallpox in the U.S.
  • 1948

    • Rabies investigation activities are conducted at the Virus Laboratory in Montgomery, Alabama
    • CDC assists the Imperial Iranian Government in planning and establishing a national malaria control program
    • CDC conducts first training courses in Laboratory Diagnosis of Tuberculosis and Mycotic Diseases
    • CDC investigations expand to include, typhus, dysentery-diarrheal, fly control-poliomyelitis, viral encephalitis, plague, Q fever, brucellosis, creeping eruption, rabies, histoplasmosis, insecticides, and rodenticides
  • 1947

    • In October, the Plague Suppressive Laboratory in San Francisco becomes a unit of CDC
    • Emory University deeds 15 acres of land to the Federal Government for the development of CDC headquarters on Clifton Road in Atlanta, Georgia
    • CDC establishes the Veterinary Public Health Division, focusing on protecting and improving both animal and human health
    • CDC offers disaster aid in response to multiple chemical explosions in Texas City, Texas.  Afterwards, CDC is designated as the official response agency for future epidemics and disasters
  • 1946

    • Malaria Control in War Areas, a program within the U.S. Public Health Service, transitions into the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) on July 1
    • U.S. becomes malaria free
    • CDC stations the Laboratory Division at the Lawson Veterans Administration Hospital in Chamblee, Georgia
    • CDC established for communicable diseases
  • Page last reviewed: January 31, 2018
  • Page last updated: January 31, 2018
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