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A Brief History of the CDC

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

Julia de Amorim

Twitter: @desert_Toucan

The CDC has provided the United States and the world with top trained experts to combat endemics for over 80 years. The first efforts were in the 1940s, after World War II. Military troops were becoming infected with malaria in droves. At the time, the CDC was changing names from Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA) to the Communicable Disease Center and established the headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. The mechanism of malaria containment was to target the vectors, which were mosquitos. Copious amounts of DDT were sprayed in homes, schools, hospitals, community centers, dormitories, farmhouses, and Indian Reservations in efforts to provide residual pest control. Initially, these efforts were a success. The report on the Development of the Communicable Disease Center claimed that “DDT saves babies” and reported that Mississippi’s infant mortality rate dropped by a ⅓ compared to the previous year. Over time, however, the effectiveness of DDT waned and the dangers were discovered. The CDC placed regulations on its use to protect the population and the environment. In 1951, malaria was considered eliminated from the United States due to the wide uses of insecticides, drainage ditches, and window screens.

The goal of the CDC has always been to prevent and control disease. In addition to the vector borne illnesses, the CDC has taken on cancer, diabetes, sexual transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, asthma, ADHD, waterborne illnesses, obesity-related illnesses, and many more. The organization is led and run by top minds in medicine and science. Though the CDC has recently been criticized for poor communication amidst the coronavirus pandemic, experts have been continuing to produce sound and objective data. As new data emerges, more effective solutions will be recommended. When DDT use was discovered to be harmful, the CDC regulated the substance and used other safer insecticides. Today, one of the most effective preventative measures at controlling disease is vaccine production and distribution. When the population is immunized and the disease eradicated, the CDC will discontinue scheduled doses of vaccines, like in the case for smallpox. We can make some predictions on the course of the coronavirus pandemic, but for now, we remain resilient and trust the scientific process.

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