CDC Timeline

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The following is a CDC timeline of events. More on the organization is available in the article Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


1946 - The Communicable Disease Center was organized in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 1.

1947 - In San Francisco, CDC took over the Public Health Service Plague Laboratory, thus acquiring an Epidemiology Division.

1948 - CDC gained worldwide recognition for the quality and quantity of its contributions to the taxonomy of the Enterobacteriaceae.

1949 - As a result of the Cold War, CDC tackled biological warfare, “an exotic new threat to health.”


1950 - Fifteen CDC staffers conducted the first investigation of an epidemic of polio in Paulding County, Ohio.

1951 - The Epidemic Intelligence Service was established to help protect against biological warfare and manmade epidemics.

1952 - U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Leonard A. Scheele reported that the Communicable Disease Center was ready to combat possible biological warfare.

1953 - CDC reported first case of rabies in a bat.

1954 - Alexander D. Langmuir, M.D., M.P.H., set up a leptospirosis laboratory in Jacksonville, Florida.

1955 - CDC established the Polio Surveillance Program.

1956 - Dr. William Cherry found the first practical use for the fluorescent technique, which was successful in identifying pathogens that might be used in biological warfare.

1957 - National guidelines for influenza vaccine were developed.

1958 - A CDC team traveled overseas, for the first time, to Southeast Asia to respond to an epidemic of cholera and smallpox.

1959 - Dr. Robert Kissling developed the fluorescent antibody test for rabies, first used in a field trial with 100 percent accuracy.


1960 - The Tuberculosis Program moved from the Public Health Service to CDC.

1961 - CDC took over publication of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

1962 - CDC played a key role in one of the greatest triumphs of public health: the eradication of smallpox.

1963 - CDC tested the newly developed Jet Gun and vaccine for smallpox.

1964 - The first Surgeon General’s report linking smoking to lung cancer was released. It stated that “cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.”

1965 - New surveillance systems added to the original National Surveillance Program of 1952 included measles, shigellosis, tetanus, and trichinosis.

1966 - CDC announced a national measles eradication campaign at the American Public Health Association meeting.

1967 - The Foreign Quarantine Service, one of the oldest and most prestigious units of the Public Health Service, joined CDC.

1968 - CDC investigated an unidentified, highly infectious respiratory disease in Pontiac, Michigan, later identified as Legionnaire’s disease.

1969 - CDC constructed a “biocontainment lab” to protect scientists while they work with deadly and infectious pathogens.


1970 - The Communicable Disease Center became the Center for Disease Control.

1971 - The National Center for Health Statistics conducted the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to capture the health status of Americans.

1972 - Tuskegee study on long-term effects of untreated syphilis in black men was brought to public attention.

1973 - MMWR reported that lead emissions in a residential area constituted a public health threat—contrary to popular assumption at the time.

1974 - CDC planned a major campaign to reverse the downward trend in the number of Americans immunized.

1975 - The last victim of variola major smallpox, the more severe form of the disease, was reported.

1976 - CDC investigated two outbreaks of a previously unknown deadly hemorrhagic fever, later known as Ebola, in Zaire and Sudan.

1977 - Global eradication of smallpox was achieved.

1978 - Alcorn County, Mississippi, reported cases of the first outbreak of tuberculosis resistance to formerly effective drugs.

1979 - First Healthy People report published.


1980 - MMWR published the first report on a newly recognized illness associated with tampon use: toxic shock syndrome.

1981 - The first diagnosis of the fatal disease later known as AIDS was described in the June 5, 1981, issue of MMWR.

1982 - CDC advised of the possible risk of Reye syndrome associated with the use of aspirin by children with chickenpox and flu-like symptoms.

1983 - CDC established a Violence Epidemiology Branch to apply public health prevention strategies to child abuse, homicide, and suicide.

1984 - CDC studied Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during combat and later fathered babies; no increased risk of birth defects was found.

1985 - With other government organizations, CDC sponsored the first International Conference on AIDS, which took place in Atlanta.

1986 - The Office on Smoking and Health, which targets the nation’s primary preventable health problem, became part of CDC.

1987 - CDC reported that about 7,000 workers die on the job annually; 42 percent of female workers who die on the job are murdered.

1988 - CDC established the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

1989 - CDC reported the 100,000th AIDS case in the United States.


1990 - For the first time, CDC reported the possible transmission of HIV from a dentist to a patient in Florida during an invasive procedure.

1991 - A CDC study showed that one in five teen deaths is gun-related, and firearm death rates for male teens exceeded those for all natural causes of death.

1992 - The National Academy of Sciences reported on a dangerous new phenomenon: the emergence of new and virulent diseases that are resistant to antibiotics.

1993 - CDC reported that 200,000 Americans had died of AIDS since the epidemic began.

1994 - CDC published a frank brochure on how condoms reduce the transmission of the AIDS virus.

1995 - CDC recommended offering HIV testing to all pregnant women.

1996 - CDC, in partnership with the International Society for Travel Medicine, initiated the GeoSentinel surveillance network to improve travel medicine.

1997 - CDC participated in the nationally televised White House event of the Presidential Apology for the Tuskegee Study.

1998 - For the first time since 1981, AIDS was diagnosed in more African-American and Hispanic men than in gay white men.

1999 - CDC’s Laboratory Response Network was established.


2000 - CDC identified an outbreak of HIV-related tuberculosis among young transgender people in New York and Boston.

2001 - CDC learned of the first anthrax case; the victim was a 63-year-old Florida man. He would be the first in a series of domestic terrorism victims of infection by anthrax sent through the mail.

2002 - CDC reported that U.S. newborn HIV infections were down 80 percent since 1981.

2003 - SARS was first reported in Asia. CDC provided guidance for surveillance, clinical and laboratory evaluation, and reporting.

2004 - CDC provided support for laws restricting access to over-the-counter medications used in methamphetamine production in Georgia.

2005 - Rubella was eliminated in the United States.

2006 - CDC celebrates its 60th anniversary.