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A Premium On Speed In The Fight Against Disease

We have a need for speed. CDC’s Center for Global Health (CGH) has always understood this reality and the necessity for finding and attacking disease at its source, before it can escape and spread. With the world ever more compressed by modern travel and global commerce, CDC has adapted and developed new tools to confront the world as it is. The Global Rapid Response Team (GRRT) is the latest example of that evolution. Launched in 2015, the GRRT is the real-life example of CDC’s fast-twitch muscles, with 50 experts ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 24-48 hours. Despite being relatively new, GRRT can point to results, including work in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 where CDC experts helped activate an Incident Management System for the first time, and provided disease surveillance, laboratory, water, sanitation and hygiene epidemiology, and policy and communications support to the response. These lessons learned are applicable to many CDC global efforts. The basic foundation to transform surveillance into intervention, just as we’ve done with malaria, includes tools such as rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) which make it possible to distinguish malaria from other illnesses. Surveillance helps determine the most effective tools and treatment for the best allocation of resources. Over the last two years, in fact, GRRT experts have supported more than 140 responses and provided assistance at mass gatherings and natural disasters in 18 countries ranging from Angola, Guinea, Panama, India, Vietnam, and the Marshall Islands. CDC staff who are the GRRT are multidisciplinary by design, composed of experts from across CDC who can establish a “beachhead” in the crucial early opening days or weeks of an outbreak: from disease-specific expertise to operations to communications. This broad skill set allows the GRRT to adapt and to respond nimbly as conditions change that help create the framework that is necessary for an effective response. Importantly, GRRT is designed to blend with and magnify other programs and initiatives such as CDC’s Global Disease Detection Operations Center to bring the best science, information, and practice to bear against a disease outbreak, and the Field Epidemiology Training Program to investigate the outbreak.

On the global health front, we know that the faster we detect disease outbreaks, the faster we can define them, launch an effective and decisive response, and isolate them. Speed, combined with strong science and technical experience, saves lives and better protects Americans from the dangers of disease outbreaks no matter where they occur. That certainty, combined with an array of expert staff and highly regarded CDC global and domestic training programs that include Global Disease Detection, the FETP, and the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), CDC and the public health workforce built in countries are constantly refining and improving their ability to respond and assist in the effort to protect people’s health, wherever the need is. All of these programs – and many other efforts – allow us to move fast and with purpose. That ability makes all of us safer and healthier.

CDC’s Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) trains the next generation of “disease detectives” to effectively respond to health threats across the globe. FETP resident and photographer Tambri Housen of Australia was recently awarded 1st place prize for this photo at the International Night Photo Contest held during CDC’s annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference in April. The image, taken in India, depicts FETP residents conducting a household interview selection in the Kashmir Village.


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