What is the CDC?

The CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a federal government agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. Its primary goals are to protect the health of the American people, promote general healthy living, prevent and research diseases, especially infectious diseases, and provide people with training and information about health and prevention. Their mission statement says that their goal is to "collaborate to create expertise, information and tools that people and communities need to protect their health, through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability and preparedness for new health threats."

The CDC was formed during World War II in 1942 as the Offices of National Defense Malaria Control Activities. Their early task was simply to eradicate and prevent the spread of malaria, a mosquito borne infections disease. Because malaria was rampant in the southern United States were mosquitoes thrive, their offices were located in Atlanta, Georgia. A majority of the employees of this predecessor agency were simply tasked with spraying houses and mosquito abatement with the pesticide DDT. After several years of malaria control, the CDC was also tasked with handling sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis control and establishing a national immunization program. Today, the CSC’s focus encompasses workplace hazards, environmental health, terrorism preparedness, chronic diseases, disabilities, and injury control.

In May 1994, the CDC came under fire for their actions during the Gulf War. They admitted to sending biological agents to Iraq between 1984-1989 that included anthrax, West Nile virus and botulism. Iraq had claimed to need the samples for vaccine and other medical research, but began using it instead for biological weapons production. Later, the CDC was cleared by the World Health Organization (WHO) of any wrong doing, citing international policy for the free exchange of biological samples amongst international medical researchers.

Notably, the CDC is one of only two store houses for the smallpox disease, which was eradicated with the help of the WHO in 1979. It is also one of the few Biosafety Level 4 labs in the country. If you are interested in working for the CDC, it is worth noting that of their 15,000 employees, 40% of them have a master’s degree, 25% have a PhD and 10% have medical degrees. There are roughly 170 different professions at the CDC, including engineers, entomologists, biologists, physicians, veterinarians, nurses, economists, chemists and more. If you are indeed interested in a career with the CDC, your options are endless.

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