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The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has played a critical lead role over the past two years in fostering activities associated with the medical and public health response to bioterrorism. Based on a charge from Secretary Donna Shalala in 1998, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading public health efforts to strengthen the nation’s capacity to detect and respond to a bioterrorist event. As a result of our efforts, federal, state, and local communities are improving their public health capacities to respond to these types of emergencies. For many of us in public health, developing plans and capacities to respond to acts of bioterrorism is an extension of our long-standing roles and responsibilities. These are stated in the CDC Mission Statement: to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling
disease, injury, and disability, and the Bioterrorism Mission: to lead the public health effort in enhancing readiness to detect and respond to bioterrorism. CDC’s infectious diseases control efforts are summarized below: –Initially formed to address malaria control in 1946; –Established the epidemic Intelligence Service in 1951; –Participated in global smallpox eradication and other immunization programs; –Estimated 800-1,000 + field investigations/year since late 1990s; –New diseases: Legionnaire’s
Disease, toxic shock syndrome,
Lyme disease, HIV, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, West Nile, etc. — Today: focus on emerging infections and bioterrorism. Over the past 50 years, CDC has seen a decline in the incidence of some infectious diseases and an increase in some, whereas others continue to present on a more unpredictable basis (i.e., hantavirus). Outbreak identification, investigation, and control have been an integral part of what we do for more than 50 years. We estimate that 800 to 1,000 field investigations have occurred every year since the late 1990s. Today, however, we have a new focus on emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism.