One Health Resource Center
One Health Resource Center
September 26, 2017
3 min read

CDC highlights security programs against infectious disease

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Over the past decade alone, epidemiologists have been kept busy responding to infectious disease outbreaks with enormous global health and economic impacts.

Crises like the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009 and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa have shown how widely and quickly diseases can travel.

To highlight its efforts to contain and alleviate outbreaks, the CDC will for the first time publish a special supplement to its journal Emerging Infectious Diseases discussing programs created to effectively respond to them.

The CDC recently released the supplement’s first article, titled “US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its Partners’ Contributions to Advance Global Health Security.” The article provides an overview of these programs.

“In less than 36 hours, an outbreak that begins in a remote village can reach major cities on any continent and become a global crisis,” lead author Jordan W. Tappero, MD, MPH, senior advisor to the CDC’s Center for Global Health, said in a CDC news release. “Even outbreaks that don’t cross national boundaries can have an economic impact on the U.S.”


The programs designed to reduce the impact of global outbreaks include the CDC’s Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), which operates in more than 60 countries. Modeled on the agency’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, FETP had about 3,800 epidemiologists conducting more than 3,300 outbreak investigations from 2005 to 2016, according to the news release.


The CDC also watches for disease outbreaks and emergencies throughout the world through its Global Disease Detection Operations Center (GDDOC). Staff members search the internet and other media for disease news, and the program is prolific.

“During 2007 to 2016, GDDOC conducted event-based surveillance and disseminated information on more than 1,500 outbreaks occurring in more than 190 countries,” they wrote. “GDDOC outbreak response support has included staff deployments and the provision of personal protective equipment, laboratory diagnostic test equipment, reagents and supplies.”

Regional global disease detection (GDD) centers contribute further surveillance that serves more than 90 countries. GDD center staff detect pathogens and conduct research, among other activities.

“During 2006 to 2016,” Tappero and colleagues wrote in the article, “GDD centers conducted surveillance for key infectious diseases and syndromes, established more than 380 new diagnostic tests in national or local laboratories in 59 countries, assisted in the discovery and/or detection of 79 strains or pathogens new to the world, country or region, responded to 2,051 requests for disease outbreak assistance and trained 115,566 professionals at the national and regional level on public health topics.”



To quicken responses to disease emergencies, the CDC maintains a Global Rapid Response Team (GRRT) comprising more than 400 experts who can travel abroad on short notice and stay in the field for as long as 6 months.

“During September 2015 to June 2017, these responders were mobilized more than 420 times and contributed more than 14,000 cumulative person-days to emergency response in the field, in Atlanta’s Emergency Operations Center or both,” the article’s authors wrote. “During this period, the GRRT responded to 13 emergencies in 25 countries, including Zika virus in the Americas, yellow fever in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and, most recently, Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Image of CDC's Emergency Operations Center
The CDC Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta.
Source: Gerard Gallagher


The CDC also works with partners in the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), which involves more than 50 countries and nongovernment organizations coordinating to improve infectious disease prevention and response.

The GHSA’s programs include 11 so-called “action packages” to fight infectious disease threats. One addresses the human, environmental, agricultural and other factors contributing to antimicrobial resistance. Another is designed to build effective vaccine programs in individual countries.

In 2015, the U.S. agreed to help accelerate GHSA activity in 31 countries, as well as in the 15 countries that make up the Caribbean Community, and is contributing $1 billion to GHSA action packages, Tappero and colleagues wrote. They stressed that the world needs to ensure it is prepared for global disease challenges.

“Infectious diseases are not going away,” Tappero said in the news release. “If we do not sustain global health security efforts, the obvious implication is that people get sick and die. The human toll can be more or less, depending on how prepared the world is.” – by Joe Green

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.