Emergency Response

DGMQ’s daily work – including the quarantine station network and traveler education – equips DGMQ to respond to public health emergencies. DGMQ is uniquely positioned and prepared to respond during a major public health emergency by enhancing its normal operations and activities. DGMQ’s ability to coordinate with its network of partners to identify and manage potential health threats, allows the division to prevent disease importation. This network also helps us respond quickly to any infectious disease outbreak that threaten the health of people throughout the world. Keeping people healthy abroad also keeps Americans healthy. Stopping outbreaks where they start and helping countries prevent diseases from spreading across their borders, protects against potential outbreaks in the United States. Here are a few examples of DGMQ’s role in CDC’s efforts to respond to public health emergencies in the United States and around the world.

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Airport worker using a forehead thermometer to check a passenger's temperature during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The 2014 – 2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa was one of the most challenging global public health emergencies in recent times. The Ebola outbreak spread to more than nine countries, gave rise to 27,000 suspected cases, and led to more than 11,000 deaths. As part of CDC’s emergency response, DGMQ focused on health screening, monitoring, and outreach to travelers after their trips to West Africa. DGMQ’s quarantine stations at airports throughout the country played a critical role.

DGMQ Emergency Response Activities

  • Recommended that Americans avoid all nonessential travel to the three countries most affected by the Ebola epidemic
  • Worked with airports and federal authorities to divert passengers coming from countries with Ebola outbreaks to five US airports, thus streamlining response efforts
  • Trained US Customs and Border Protection staff at airports to screen people travelling from outbreak countries for signs and symptoms of Ebola or possible exposures
  • Developed the CARE (Check and Report Ebola) program to help travelers monitor and report health concerns for 21 days after they left a country with Ebola outbreaks. DGMQ and US Customs and Border Protection distributed CARE Kits to these travelers, providing them with tools and information to help them successfully complete the required monitoring.
Healthcare worker providing patient education about Zika to a mother and her child.

During 2015-2016, the Zika virus emerged as the first major infectious disease discovered in the last 50 years to be linked to serious birth defects. Many areas in the United States have a type of mosquito that can become infected with Zika virus and then spread it to people. As part of CDC’s emergency response efforts, DGMQ focused on traveler outreach, particularly for pregnant travelers and their partners. DGMQ’s quarantine stations in areas potentially affected by Zika (US continent and territories) enhanced activities to reduce the risk of the disease’s spread, relying heavily on building partnerships with local governments and organizations.

DGMQ Emergency Response Activities

  • Posted 57 travel notices with information on how to prevent spread of Zika before, during, and after travel
  • Increased traveler outreach through interactive maps, risk assessment tools and text messaging systems.
  • Developed extensive airport messaging for travelers, targeting pregnant travelers and travelers whose partners were pregnant
  • Partnered with the US Olympic Committee to provide targeted traveler communication materials and conduct risk analyses that predicted which countries were at greatest risk of Zika importation from Brazil following the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games
  • Focused on areas of the United States that were at higher risk of Zika spreading, such as the US-Mexico border and Puerto Rico, by working with community health workers to alert and teach people who often travel through these areas about their risk for Zika.
Image of Influenza Virus H1N1

The 2009 H1N1 virus caused the first flu pandemic in the United States in more than 40 years, with higher rates of hospitalizations in children and young adults than previous seasons. As part of CDC’s emergency response, DGMQ collaborated with state and local health departments to stop the spread of flu. Recommended strategies included temporarily closing child care centers, schools, places of worship, sporting events, concerts, festivals, conferences, and other settings where people gather, as well as hand washing and staying home when sick.

DGMQ Emergency Response Activities

  • Conducted more than 16 investigations throughout the United States and internationally to understand people’s behaviors during flu outbreaks. Investigations involved administering surveys in schools, at ports of entry, and with travelers to the Hajj (the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia), where H1N1 was a potential threat
  • Distributed fact sheets, posters, and tool kits about how nonpharmaceutical interventions could reduce the spread of flu in US schools, workplaces, and communities
  • Organized an award-winning nationwide public awareness campaign to increase public awareness on ways to prevent the spread of flu during travel. Learn more about this and other accomplishments here.
  • Updated the Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza – United States, 2017 pdf icon[PDF – 36 pages], to incorporate lessons learned from the H1N1 response. These guidelines serve as a planning tool for local and state health departments in their preparedness efforts for managing any future influenza pandemics.