Health Departments: Request CDC Assistance

Key points

  • CDC can assist public health officials with investigating unexplained respiratory disease outbreaks (URDO).
  • The public should direct inquiries about respiratory diseases or outbreaks in general to CDC-INFO.
  • Contact the relevant state or local health department with questions about specific outbreak investigations.
Scientist wearing personal protective equipment while working in a public health laboratory.

Requesting CDC assistance

CDC staff are available to provide assistance to health departments and public health agencies during respiratory disease outbreaks when:

  • The causative agent has been identified prior to contacting CDC, but needs to be confirmed
  • More than one causative agent is suspected and epidemiological or laboratory assistance is needed
  • The etiology is unknown

Request assistance‎

To request assistance, e-mail URDO (M-F; 8 am–4 pm EST) or call the emergency, after-hours hotline at 770-488-7100.

Diagnostic tests used at CDC

CDC laboratories can test for a wide variety of viral, bacterial, and other pathogens at the same time.

For help identifying the right test for your needs, view CDC's searchable Test Directory for

  • An up-to-date list of orderable tests
  • Information on specimen requirements
  • Contact information
  • Test turnaround times
  • Other supplemental information

CDC testing requirements

Who can submit

Only state health departments and other federal agencies may submit specimens directly to CDC for pathogen detection and characterization. Others must contact their local (city or county) or state health department about how and when to submit specimens for testing. That includes:

  • Private citizens
  • Healthcare providers
  • Hospital personnel

For requests outside of the United States, please ensure that the local health authorities are involved.


All specimens sent to CDC require approval by the relevant state health departments and CDC prior to shipment. All potential testing requires:

  • Consultation with the appropriate CDC subject matter expert
  • CDC approval before shipping the specimens
Keep Reading: Specimen Submission