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Medical News & Perspectives |

Disease Detectives Celebrate 50 Years of Successful Sleuthing

Brian Vastag
JAMA. 2001;285(15):1947-1949. doi:10.1001/jama.285.15.1947.
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Atlanta—They are perhaps the most influential medical group you've never heard of. Among their numbers rank legions of state health officers, a dozen deans of prestigious schools of public health, two surgeons general, the chief medical writer at the New York Times, and the current director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the past half century, they've been involved in investigating thousands of public health threats, infectious or otherwise, in the United States and abroad. Polio, smallpox, lead poisoning in children, vinyl chloride and liver cancer, Legionnaire's disease, Ebola virus, toxic shock syndrome, the first cases of AIDS, West Nile virus, and violence in the schools have all been illuminated by their work.

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The EIS logo—a shoe with its sole worn through—symbolizes the globe-trotting, door-to-door visiting nature of the program's work in tracking down disease outbreaks. (Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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Jeffrey Koplan, MD, director of the CDC and a former EIS officer, gives polio vaccine to a child in Bangladesh in July 2000. He was in Bangladesh visiting CDC staff working on the worldwide effort to eradicate polio. (Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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Kristy Murray, DVM, walks with Bangladeshi children while on assignment to help eradicate polio. Originally designed to find and stop epidemics of disease, the EIS also attempts to prevent them. (Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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