The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, better known as the CDC, is an agency under the US Department of Health and Human Services. Their primary focus is on protecting the people from health threats by fighting disease and support communities and citizens that need their help. So if they are a national agency, why is their headquarters located in Atlanta and not in the capital?
The CDC is based in Atlanta, Georgia, because it was initially intended to help out with malaria in the South in 1946. Instead, they sprayed homes and surrounding areas with DDT and draining wetlands to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.
The History of the CDC
The CDC is previously known as the Communicable Disease Center. They first started on July 1, 1946, in a one-floor office in Atlanta, Georga. Their primary mission was to control malaria from spreading across the United States. (Source: CDC)
There actually weren’t any offices in Washington because of the war effort. And although other places were considered–Memphis was considered, Texas was considered, California was considered, because the transportation hub that Atlanta was, they settled on Atlanta.Judy Gantt
They were given a budget of $10 million and around 400 employees for the job. But they did face many challenges that included the acquirement of necessary materials to wage their war against mosquitoes.
After successfully ending the malaria threat in Atlanta, Dr. Joseph Mountin, the founder of the CDC, continued to advocate for other public health issues. He pushed the agency to extend its responsibilities to other communicable diseases.
From its small start in Atlanta, the CDC has become a massive organization and became the lead public health agency with 14,000 employees and several satellite offices in 54 countries.
To collaborate to create the 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.CDC Mission
How Did the CDC Handle the Malaria Issue?
The National Malaria Eradication Program was put into action by July 1, 1947. They started spraying DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) in homes and surrounding areas. By the end of 1949, 4,650,000 house spray applications have been done.
And because the CDC knew that they had to get to the root of the problem, they also focused on removing the breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carried the disease. They drained the wetlands and occasionally sprayed DDT using aircraft carriers.
By 1951, malaria was completely eradicated in the United States. (Source: CDC)
Is DDT Dangerous for Humans?
While any insecticide can pose a threat to human health, the DDT used during the project was relatively low enough to be safe.
Exposure to high doses can cause various symptoms like tremors, vomiting, and even seizures. It is also considered to be a carcinogen.
Further studies in the laboratory show animal studies to have liver and reproduction issues. But then again, these were on high doses.
DDT is more commonly used in malaria-endemic areas like South America, Africa, and Asia. In the US, it is still used for crops and pest control services. (Source: CDC)