By David Martin, president and CEO of VeinInnovations
Last week, media sounded the alarm about two deadly cases of hantavirus contracted by campers in Yosemite National Park. Two more cases were suspected, and 3000 summer visitors were advised to watch out for potential symptoms. Any story you read about the virus will include a reference to information from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As an Atlantan, I’m proud to say the globally recognized organization is right in my backyard.
In pop culture, the CDC has been blown up, breached, and targeted as the bull’s eye in terrorist plots. The Walking Dead, a show about the struggle for survival after the zombie apocalypse, ended their first season with an ill advised trip to the CDC. The characters made it out alive, but the CDC exploded. The real-life organization didn’t take it personally. They released a graphic novel to teach about emergency preparedness using a zombie pandemic as the scenario.
The public doesn’t always appreciate the CDC’s role outside of movies and television. It was CDC scientists who first identified hantavirus in 1993 after 31 people living in the Four Corners area inexplicably died of a mysterious respiratory disease. They then tracked down the culprit: infected deer mice.
In emergencies, the CDC ensures that state and local public health systems are prepared to respond, and will provide further support if those agencies are overwhelmed. Scientists at the CDC study and prepare for biological and bioterrorist threats. The CDC studies highly infectious diseases, such as the Ebola virus and Lassa fever. Experts from the CDC rushed to an Ebola “hot zone” in Uganda at the beginning of August 2012. Their research is more important than ever: there are no borders as global travel increases.
The CDC also fights “Winnable Battles” in the United States. The CDC works to implement proven strategies to combat teen pregnancy, global immunization, HIV in the United States, food safety, and obesity. While we may only read about the CDC in connection to rare disease outbreaks and during crises, they’re always working to improve the health of the nation.