Request CDC Assistance

CDC can assist health department personnel with investigating unexplained respiratory disease outbreaks (URDO). The public should direct inquiries about respiratory disease cases or outbreaks in general to CDC-INFO at 1-800-CDC-INFO, (800-232-4636), TTY: (888) 232-6348, or email CDC-INFO.

Contact the relevant state or local health department with questions about specific outbreak investigations.

CDC’s Approach to URDO Investigations

CDC uses a multidisciplinary team approach to help local, state, and international public health officials in URDO investigations. More than 40 epidemiology and laboratory experts in infectious and non-infectious respiratory diseases make up the URDO work group. When health departments request assistance, the URDO work group convenes to discuss possible causes with the requester. The work group also provides technical expertise and specialized resources that are often only available at CDC. Several CDC laboratories test specimens at the same time for a wide variety of viral, bacterial, and other pathogens. This allows the work group to quickly determine the cause of the outbreak and help prevent others from becoming ill.

URDO fact sheet

Unexplained Respiratory Disease Outbreaks Work Group Factsheet [1 page]
Did you know CDC can provide support if you have a respiratory disease outbreak of unknown etiology? Learn more about how you can get CDC’s help to investigate your outbreak.

When and How to Request 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

To request assistance:

  • E-mail URDO (M-F; 8 am–4 pm EST)
  • Call the emergency, after-hours hotline at 770-488-7100

Diagnostic Tests and Methods Used at CDC

Need 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

Requirements for Testing at CDC

Only state health departments and other federal agencies may submit specimens directly to CDC for pathogen detection and characterization. Private citizens, health practitioners, and hospital personnel must contact their local (city or county) or state health department about how and when to submit specimens for testing. 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 and CDC approval before shipping the specimens.

See Instructions for Specimen Shipping.