Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch

The lead coordination and response unit for domestic and global water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related disease, including 11 pathogens, in CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

A Domestic and Global Vision and Mission

With its many uses for drinking, recreation, sanitation, hygiene, and industry, water is our most precious global resource. Access to clean and safe water, adequate sanitation, and improved hygiene are critical to sustaining human health and life. Although water is essential for life, it also causes injuries and can spread illness when it is contaminated by disease-causing organisms. CDC’s Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch (WDPB) was created in 2010 to be the lead coordination and response unit in the Center for preventing domestic and global water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related disease.

Vision

A world where everyone has access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and basic hygiene practices.

Mission

To maximize the health, productivity, and well-being of people in the United States and around the globe through improved and sustained access to safe water for drinking, recreation, and other uses, adequate sanitation, and basic hygiene practices.

Integrated Focus Areas

The branch addresses our mission in the U.S. and abroad by developing partnerships, providing technical and emergency assistance, monitoring and evaluating new interventions and ongoing programs, building laboratory expertise and capacity, and conducting applied research to support activities and programs. As part of our WASH-related mission, we are also the lead CDC group for specific diseases that include amebiasis, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, cholera (non-laboratory), shigellosis (non-laboratory), and infections caused by Cronobacter (non-laboratory), and the free-living amebae Acanthamoeba, Balamuthia, Naegleria, and Sappinia.

To accomplish our mission, our teams:

  • Track waterborne disease nationally
  • Investigate the causes and sources of waterborne disease and outbreaks
  • Identify the risk factors for infection
  • Develop improved laboratory detection and sampling methods
  • Develop new ways to remove or inactivate pathogens
  • Assess new prevention ideas
  • Promote improved public health through communication and education
  • Develop WASH-related guidance and policy
  • Respond to WASH-related emergencies and outbreaks

WDPB mission-related work includes domestic and global outbreak investigations, including cholera, typhoid fever, giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, amebiasis, and the free-living amebae (Naegleria, Acanthamoeba, Balamuthia).

Global Work

WDPB also works globally on evaluating and promoting CDC’s Safe Water System, documenting the health and developmental benefits of handwashing, integrating safe water and hygiene into school and healthcare settings, integrating WASH into neglected tropical disease programs, evaluating sanitation systems, and building capacity within ministries of health for epidemic cholera and typhoid response.

Domestic Work

African Child washing her hands outdoors

In the United States, WDPB focuses on public health issues related to drinking and recreational water (e.g., swimming pools). WDPB operates multiple national waterborne disease and outbreak surveillance systems; provides diagnostic services and clinical consults, particularly for infections by the free-living amebae; develops estimates of the burden of waterborne disease; works on water-related issues impacted by climate change; and promotes disease prevention and control through health communications, behavioral science, and policy development.

Girl learning to swim in pool

Core Work Strategies

As critical components of any mission to assure healthy lives, WASH expertise is supported by many groups at CDC. The Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch works with groups across CDC on global and domestic WASH-related issues bridging infectious and chronic diseases, global health, environmental health, emergency response, injury prevention, and worker safety.

Our core work strategies for achieving mission success are to:

  • Build a strong team
  • Deliver the best administrative and mission support
  • Use a multidisciplinary approach to yield the best science
  • Develop strategic internal and external partnerships
  • Maximize effectiveness and productivity from taxpayer investment
  • Provide superior technical support and capacity building expertise to partners
  • Train and educate new waterborne disease prevention experts
  • Translate science into prevention

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