Prevent, Detect, and Respond

What to know

  • CDC works to protect people from germs spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, which can cause vector-borne diseases (VBDs).
  • CDC provides national and international leadership in researching, detecting, and preventing VBDs.
  • CDC conducts surveillance, diagnostic testing, research, outbreak response, and training.

Leads a national strategy

VBDs increasingly threaten the health and well-being of people in the United States. Reported VBD cases have doubled over the last two decades. Yet, the United States is not adequately prepared to respond to these threats.

Together, U.S. federal entities developed the National Public Health Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Vector-Borne Diseases in People to address the rising public health threat of VBDs. The Strategy includes critical government activities to prevent and control VBDs.

An adult applying insect repellent to a child
CDC works with people and partners to protect the nation from illness, suffering, and death due to VBDs.


CDC develops tools such as vaccines and publicly-accepted insect repellents and pest control methods.

Vaccine work

CDC staff conduct vaccine research and consult on important work groups. For example, staff

  • Developed a dengue vaccine candidate, TDV, that is being clinically evaluated in multiple countries for safety and efficacy.
  • Are working to develop two types of Zika vaccines. These vaccines are in different phases of development.
  • Develop recommendations for the use of vaccines once approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Breakthrough pest control

Nootkatone is an essential oil found in Alaska yellow cedar trees, some herbs, and citrus fruits. Nootkatone has a fresh, citrus scent and can be produced through sustainable, industrial-scale fermentation. The Environmental Protection Agency has registered this active ingredient, allowing manufacturers to develop insect repellents and insecticides.


Conducts surveillance

CDC works with health departments to monitor VBDs through a national surveillance system. ArboNET tracks VBD viruses in people, animals, mosquitoes, ticks, and blood donors.

Discovers pathogens

CDC is always on the lookout for new vector-borne pathogens by using traditional and state-of-the-art advanced molecular detection (AMD) methods.

Since 2004, seven new tickborne pathogens have been discovered in people in the United States.

Discovery of Bourbon virus‎

In 2014, a VBD microbiologist noticed something unusual in a sample from a sick person in Kansas. She suspected a new virus. Traditional and AMD methods identified Bourbon virus. Researchers used AMD again to show that lone star tick can spread the virus through bites.

Responds to threats

CDC responds to VBD threats by building laboratory capacity, providing technical assistance, and by preparing public health agencies for potential bioterrorism events.

Builds laboratory capacity

CDC supports public health labs nationwide by

  • Developing tests to rapidly identify and diagnosis new and known VBDs
  • Improving existing tests
  • Searching for new ways to detect vector-borne pathogens.
  • Providing diagnostic and reference services
  • Preparing and shipping reagents needed for testing

Provides technical support

Local, state, territorial, and international agencies can request technical assistance and disease investigation services. Short-term assistance to U.S. and international agencies can improve understanding of an emerging diseases and help prevent spread of a VBD.

Disease detectives and Zika‎

When a Zika outbreak hit the Pacific island of Yap, disease detectives studied the outbreak. This work provided valuable information needed when Zika came to the Western Hemisphere.

Prepares for bioterrorism and exotic pathogens

Some bacteria and viruses can be used deliberately to cause harm or fear. Laboratory personnel play an important role in preventing and responding to biological emergencies. Some vector-borne pathogens of concern include plague, Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), and tularemia. VBD experts research these pathogens to help protect Americans.

Invests in research and evaluation

CDC invests in a variety of ways to expand the nation's ability to prevent, control, and respond to VBDs.

Invests in the future

CDC's Public Health Entomology for All (PHEFA) program provides internship and fellowship opportunities. The program was created to address the lack of diversity in the field of entomology. A diverse workforce strengthens the field's ability to develop successful, community-accepted prevention and intervention efforts.

Illustration of 16 people with bubbles containing a mosquito, a tick, and a flea. Text reads "PHEFA, Public Health Entomology for All Internship/Fellowship Program."
PHEFA interns and fellows strengthen the nation's workforce.