Recent Work

Our Work - 2020

NCEZID Continues the Fight Against COVID-19
Coronavirus Disease 2019

NCEZID divisions, leadership, and staff are an integral part of CDC’s and the federal government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here are just a few examples of NCEZID’s work in the fight against COVID-19:

ELC awards $10.25 billion to 64 jurisdictions across the United States

On May 18, awards totaling $10.25 billion were provided to the 64 recipients of the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) Cooperative Agreement. Funding was made possible from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPPHEA) and constitutes the largest funding opportunity any one CDC program has ever dispersed. This financial support, called ELC Enhancing Detection, is to help states, localities, and territories develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, and conduct surveillance, contact tracing, and related activities. ELC Enhancing Detection awards will complement, not duplicate, existing funding provided to jurisdictions, including the ELC Community-based Surveillance and ELC CARES supplements. A detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 funding, by jurisdiction, can be found online pdf icon[PDF – 1 page].

CDC launches national viral genomics consortium to map the transmission of SARS-CoV-2

CDC has kicked off the SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology, and Surveillance (SPHERES) consortium, which will greatly expand the use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) of the COVID-19 virus.

SPHERES is an ambitious effort to coordinate SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing nationally, organizing dozens of smaller efforts into a network of laboratories, institutions, and corporations. The consortium combines the expertise, technology, and resources of 37 state and local public health departments, several large clinical laboratories, and over two dozen collaborating institutions across the federal government, academia, and the private sector. SPHERES will accelerate open data sharing and establish best practices, consensus data standards, and a pool of resources and expertise to bring cutting-edge technology to the national COVID-19 response.

SPHERES will provide real-time sequence data to public health response teams investigating cases and clusters of COVID-19 across the country. It will help them better understand how the virus is spreading. And better data will help public health officials protect and save lives.

CDC report on foodborne disease trends demonstrates need for better prevention strategies
FoodNet Report Scientist

CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) released a new report showing that progress has stalled in controlling foodborne pathogens in the United States. Recent increases in foodborne illness might be due in part to increased testing and improved technologies, such as culture-independent diagnostic tests and whole genome sequencing, that have revealed infections which might not have been diagnosed in the past. More resources are needed to reach the full potential of these technologies, and targeted approaches to prevention are needed to reduce foodborne illness.

CDC publishes guide to tick surveillance
Metastriate Ticks

CDC’s Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch published the Guide to the Surveillance of Metastriate Ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) and Their Pathogens in the United States pdf icon[PDF – 55 pages]. The guidance is intended to provide recommendations for the collection and processing of ticks for tick and tickborne  pathogen surveillance efforts.

CDC promotes backyard pool safety during Healthy and Safe Swimming Week
Healthy and Safe Swimming Week

Each year, Healthy and Safe Swimming Week focuses on simple steps everyone can take to help ensure healthy and safe swimming experiences. This year’s theme, “Stay Safe and Healthy in Your Backyard Pool,” aimed to educate backyard pool owners on steps they can take to keep themselves and others in their household free of injury and illness. DFWED raised awareness through a feature for the public, a communications toolkit for partners, and other materials.

NCEZID Continues the Fight Against COVID-19
Coronavirus Disease 2019

NCEZID divisions, leadership, and staff are an integral part of CDC’s and the federal government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here are just a few examples of NCEZID’s work in the fight against COVID-19:

ELC awards record $631 million to 64 jurisdictions across the United States

In April 2020, CDC awarded $631 million to 64 jurisdictions across the United States through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) cooperative agreement. These awards are the largest the ELC program has ever dispersed. The funds come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARESexternal icon) Act of 2020 and are designed to help jurisdictions improve their ability to identify COVID-19 cases, conduct contract tracing and follow-up, and implement containment measures. The funds also enable jurisdictions to improve morbidity and mortality surveillance, enhance testing capacity, control COVID-19 in high-risk settings and protect high-risk populations, and work with healthcare systems to manage and monitor system capacity of their surveillance systems.

NCEZID’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP) expertise supports CDC COVID-related surveillance

The Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP) programs helped to establish a pathway for healthcare facilities to report COVID-19 data to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) surveillance system. Acute-care hospitals and long-term care facilities can now use NHSN to report COVID-19 patients and other crucial information to CDC and state and local health departments. Efforts to expand this capacity in a tailored way to other healthcare settings (e.g., dialysis) are being explored. A new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule will require nursing homes to report cases to CDC.

Control and prevent further spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships and in communities

The Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ), along with staff detailed to the Cruise Ship Task Force (CSTF) that was temporarily active as part of CDC’s COVID-19 response, worked tirelessly to control COVID-19 on cruise ships and prevent further spread of COVID-19 into communities. Teaming up with the US Coast Guard, CDC staff tracked about 100 vessels, oversaw the safe disembarkation and repatriation of more than 260,000 cruise ship passengers and crew members, and provided support for triage and medical evacuations to 41 cruise ships affected by COVID-19. In March, CDC issued the first ever industry-wide No Sail Order to prevent all new passenger embarkations. This order was extended in April as cruise lines develop and implement plans to provide a safe work environment for crew members. DGMQ continues to help crew members return home safely during this period of suspended operations.

Enteric Disease Outbreak- Enoki Mushrooms
Enteric Disease Outbreak- Enoki Mushrooms

CDC, with state and federal partners, is investigating several multistate enteric disease outbreaks, including Listeria infections linked to enoki mushrooms imported from Korea. Thirty-six people from 17 states have become sick. Three companies have recalled the mushrooms and a firm in Korea has been put on import alert.

Increase in poultry purchasing highlights need for Salmonella prevention
Several chickens in a coup

CDC scientists have been interviewed about the safe handling of backyard flocks after recent media articlesexternal icon reported an increase in people keeping backyard flocks for fresh eggs because of COVID-19. Read more about safely handling backyard flocks and preventing Salmonella.

CDC’s Hurricane Recovery Team leads investigation on cistern water in US Virgin Islands
Gouthami Rao (DFWED) and Kaunda Williams (VIDOH) oversee the collection of a water sample from a household cistern to test for evidence of waterborne pathogens.

Gouthami Rao (DFWED) and Kaunda Williams (VIDOH) oversee the collection of a water sample from a household cistern to test for evidence of waterborne pathogens.

CDC led a large-scale cistern water evaluationexternal icon in the US Virgin Islands, in partnership with the US Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH) and Love City Strong, a local nongovernmental organization. Following the 2017 hurricane season, VIDOH identified the need for evidence-based recommendations for making household cistern water safe for consumption during and after emergencies. More than 90% of the population relies on cisterns as their main residential water supply. The team administered a survey and tested the cistern and tap water of 400 households for E. coli. A smaller number of households received additional testing for other pathogens. The evaluation found that 80% of water taken directly from the cistern hatch tested positive for E. coli contamination, and 58% of cistern water taken from a kitchen tap also tested positive. The team is working to identify and communicate environmental and household management practices to help residents address specific contamination risks for their cisterns.

NCEZID Continues Ebola Fight in Democratic Republic of Congo
Amanda MaCgurn in DRC

DHCPP's Amanda MaCgurn (L) discusses response data with CGH surveillance deployer Charlene Siza in Goma, DRC.

CDC is a year and a half into the second-largest Ebola outbreak on record. Weekly case counts in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been in the single digits for most of the year to date. Late this month, there was an entire week without a case for the first time since the outbreak began.

However, there needs to be six straight weeks with no new cases—a total of 42 days in a row—plus 90 days of enhanced surveillance to be able to call this outbreak over. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reaffirmed the outbreak’s status as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, warning that the security situation in the region leaves open the potential for new cases. WHO says it will revisit that decision within two months. In the meantime, CDC responders will keep working in Atlanta and with the DRC and its neighbors to support the response and preparedness efforts until the outbreak can definitively be declared over.

Speak Up: Making Dialysis Safer for Patients video debuts
Speak Up: Making Dialysis Safer for Patients video debuts

In January, the Making Dialysis Safer for Patients Coalition and the American Association of Kidney Patients released a video for dialysis staff and patients on dialysis about the importance of speaking up to prevent infections and improve patient safety. The video follows the journey of two patients on dialysis who feel empowered to speak up and share concerns about their treatment. The video also highlights ways dialysis staff can create an environment where patients feel safe speaking up. Along with the video, the group created a handout for staff with helpful tips and reminders about how to engage patients and caregivers. The video was released ahead of Patient Safety Awareness Week, which CDC observes from March 8-14.

CDC scientists and partners uncover Marburg among bats in Sierra Leone
DHCPP Scientists in Sierra Leone

Researchers remove bats that are caught in nets.

CDC scientists and partners (including University of California-Davis and Sierra Leone’s Njala University and University of Makeni) have discovered active circulation of an Angola-like strain of Marburg virus in Egyptian rousette fruit bat colonies for the first time in Sierra Leone. Actively infected bats can potentially spread the virus to people who are in close contact with them, including when people prepare or eat fruit that’s been contaminated with the saliva, feces, or urine of an infected bat. Unfortunately, the bats eat a lot of the same fruit that we do. CDC has worked closely with partners in Sierra Leone to educate residents about conserving this ecologically beneficial bat species and the importance of avoiding the bats and their caves to prevent the spread of Marburg virus to people. Read more in the January 24 issueexternal icon of Nature.

Patient stories show seriousness of foodborne illness
DFWED Patient Stories

CDC’s new video series, “Was It Something I Ate?,” presents stories of people who developed serious intestinal infections from food or animal contact. The stories are from families with children who developed Salmonella infection from eating contaminated chicken or contact with backyard poultry, and from a CDC veterinarian who investigated an outbreak linked to working with farm animals.

These stories highlight the importance of preventing infections from food or animal contact through efforts by industry, government, and the public. Check out all videos in the series (as well as free graphics, Medscape commentaries, and more) in the Resource Library section of CDC’s food safety website.

Vector Week 2020
Vector Week 2020 badge

Nearly 400 representatives from across the country attended CDC’s first Vector Week, held March 25-28. CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases Director, Lyle Petersen, presented a collective vision and strategy to battle vector-borne diseases nationally. Other CDC senior scientists and experts from state and local public health programs and the Centers of Excellence presented on specific challenges and opportunities for vector-borne disease prevention and control. CDC and other public health programs are at a crucial juncture in our efforts to prevent and control vector-borne diseases, and we hope the deliberations at Vector Week 2020 will shape new directions in this important area.

NASA samples expertise from CDC SMEs
NASA staff at CDC

(L) NASA's Alvin Smith, Michael Calaway, Michael Myer, Richard Mattingly, and Andrea Harrington

CDC has been consulting with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on safety issues surrounding the Mars Sample Return missionexternal icon. The proposed mission will use rovers to sample Martian soil and bring back specimens to Earth for testing. A NASA team visited CDC earlier this month to discuss how to make sure that any pathogens that might be in the samples don’t pose a risk to people, agriculture, or the environment.

NASA staff also met with staff here at CDC about security and engineering of high-containment labs and biosafety for working with the samples. We talked about how to either contain or sterilize samples to prevent contaminants from getting in or out. Last week, representatives from CDC traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to meet with NASA’s Sterilization Workgroup, where they explained how CDC communicates about infectious disease risks and outbreaks. CDC shared examples of ways we have communicated about high-consequence but low-probability diseases.

NCEZID 2019 Accomplishments: Hot off the press!
NCEZID Accomplishments 2019 cover

On February 5, NCEZID released its 2019 Accomplishments highlighting everything from protecting domestic and global public health threats to collaborating with our partners to make an even bigger mark in saving lives and strengthening our preparedness to fight emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases. You can view NCEZID’s 2019 Accomplishments through a PDF – 16 pagespdf icon or on our website.

Novel coronavirus emerges in China, spreads globally

Since early January, CDC has been actively engaged in the international response to the rapidly escalating outbreak of respiratory infections linked to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center under the leadership of National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), with support from NCEZID and other centers across the agency. Information about the outbreak has been changing daily. CDC and its public health partners have launched an aggressive preparedness and response effort. NCEZID’s response activities cut across programs throughout the center, as these examples show:

  • Conducting enhanced health screenings at US airports, travel health notices, travel health alert messages in airports, and other travel- and quarantine-related activities, including analysis of travel data.
  • Sharing infection control guidance.
  • Providing expertise for pathology studies.
  • Supporting efforts to develop and distribute laboratory diagnostic kits.
  • Providing leadership and support for field deployments and CDC’s Emergency Operations Center.
Earthquakes rattle Puerto Rico
A house in Puerto Rico

On December 28, Puerto Rico experienced the first of a series of earthquakesexternal icon. On January 7, the island suffered a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. A 5.9 magnitude aftershock followed on January 11, and more than 2,300 tremors have occurred since December 28. We are communicating regularly with our staff in Puerto Rico to ensure that they are safe, and Dengue Branch facilities in San Juan have not been damaged. Metro areas currently have power, but southern Puerto Rico is still experiencing outages. Several CDC staff are participating in efforts to aid residents in this part of the island. CDC is actively engaged and monitoring quake activity and are on standby to provide support if needed.

Updates on Ebola: Case counts fall, but challenges remain
People walking in Mpondwe, Uganda

People walking in Mpondwe, Uganda, near the country's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Case counts have fallen from more than 100 a week at the worst of the outbreak to the single digits for many weeks. But the remaining hot spots are in places where surveillance and contact tracing are difficult, and recent violence has disrupted response work by some of our partner agencies.

Ebola vaccine receives FDA approval

In December, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvedexternal icon Ervebo, Merck’s Ebola vaccine, for use in the United States in people 18 and older. It’s the first FDA approval of a vaccine for Ebola virus, marking a historic milestone. The Democratic Republic of the Congo Ethics Review Committee and National Regulatory Authority have approved the Merck rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine in the DRC for this outbreak under “expanded access.” The existing vaccine supply in DRC and neighboring countries will remain investigational. This vaccine has been shown to be safe and protective against the Zaire ebolavirus species.

Enteric disease outbreak investigations
Four cute puppies

CDC, with state and federal partners, is investigating several multistate enteric disease outbreaks, including the following:

  • Listeria infections linked to hard-boiled eggs produced by Almark Foods of Gainesville, Georgia. One death in Texas has been reported among seven total illnesses. On December 23, Almark Foods recalled all hard-boiled eggs produced at the Gainesville facility.
  • Multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections linked to contact with puppies in pet stores. Whole genome sequencing shows that the strain causing illness in 2019 is closely related genetically to the strain that caused a similar outbreak in 2016–2018.
  • Salmonella infections linked to cut fruit. People in 11 states have gotten sick from eating contaminated cut honeydew melon, cantaloupe, or pineapple produced by Tailor Cut Produce.
  • Salmonella infections linked to small pet turtles. People in 9 states have been infected with Salmonella typhimurim likely from contact with small pet turtles. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans the sale and distribution of turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets, but these animals can still be found for sale at flea markets, swap meets, and online.
New resource for healthcare providers: bloodstream staph infection prevention tool on Medscape

Medical illustration of mehicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, as pictured in the AR Threats Report

CDC released a new interactive caseexternal icon assessment tool on Medscape to help healthcare providers learn more about preventing deadly Staphylococcus aureus (staph) infections in their patients. The tool was released in connection with a 2019 issue of Vital Signs that reported that 119,000 people suffered from bloodstream staph infections in the United States in 2017—and nearly 20,000 died. CDC called on healthcare facilities, providers, and administrators to protect patients from device- and procedure-related staph infections and promoted tools and resources to support those efforts. This case assessment tool is the latest resource created to help providers protect their patients against serious staph infections that can lead to sepsis or death.

AIP publishes steps to combat gastric cancer in Alaska Native people
Native Alaskan residents with woman and her child

CDC’s Arctic Investigations Program (AIP) recently published an articleexternal icon in Gastroenterology that summarizes the outcomes of a meeting that brought together international gastric cancer experts, Alaskan health providers, Alaska Native community and tribal leaders, public health officials, and representatives from other North American indigenous populations. The article describes the need for solutions designed to work in Alaska, where approximately 40% of Alaska Native people live in communities not connected to a road system. Participants identified the need for targeted screening and surveillance, clinical and community education, and additional research to uncover why gastric cancer rates are disproportionately high among Alaska Native people. AIP and its partners in Alaska have begun to address these needs, including designing a long-term screening study.