Infectious Diseases

The strong public health partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and forensic pathologists and medical examiners, coupled with the use of state-of-the-art technologies, has facilitated explanation of many otherwise unexplained deaths, led to the discovery of new pathogens, and enabled the monitoring of unexplained deaths and critical illnesses at the state and local levels.

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Infectious Disease Testing

CDC accepts specimens from state public health laboratories and other federal agencies for testing and analysis. Specimens from private healthcare providers and institutions, including medical examiners and coroners, must be submitted to the local or state health department laboratory (state, county, city) for appropriate processing before submission to CDC. Staff from private institutions can find contact information for their state or territory: State and Territorial Health Departments

CDC requests that public health laboratory staff review CDC guidelines for submitting specimens before contacting CDC for infectious disease testing or sending any specimens: Submitting Specimens to CDC. This resource includes CDCs Infectious Diseases Laboratories Testing Directory, a searchable list of tests that can be ordered. The directory provides information on specimen requirements, contact information, test turnaround times, and other supplemental information that will be useful for those submitting specimens.

Additional resources about testing at CDC, including details about specific laboratories, are provided below:

  • Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch performs diagnostic testing for a wide range of infectious etiologies on formalin-fixed tissue specimens.
  • CDC ePathology is an electronic platform for pathologists, laboratorians, and other medical and veterinary professionals from the United States and around the world to receive real-time informal consultation for pathologic diagnosis of suspected cases of infectious diseases.
  • CDC – DPDx is a website developed and maintained by CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria. This interactive and rapid exchange of information within the United States and abroad, allied with already available diagnostic reference resources, will enhance our capacity to address the global problem of parasitic diseases.
Notifiable Diseases

A notifiable disease is one that, when diagnosed, requires health care professionals (usually by law) to report to state or local public health officials. Notifiable diseases are of public interest because of their contagiousness, severity, or frequency.

While the list of reportable conditions varies by state, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) has recommended that state health departments report cases of selected diseases to CDC’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS).  Every year, case definitions are updated using CSTE’s Position Statements. They provide uniform criteria of national notifiable infectious and non-infectious conditions for reporting purposes.

However, the list of notifiable diseases, method and timeliness of reporting differs by state or territory.  Some states may have conditions that are notifiable within their jurisdictions that are not nationally notifiable. To learn more about the notifiable diseases in your jurisdiction and expectations for reporting, please contact your state or territorial health department.

Some conditions are notifiable because they have resulted in death, and so may first be identified by medical examiners and coroners.  These conditions include pediatric influenza-associated mortality and Respiratory Syncytial Virus-Associated Mortality.

Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Other Resources