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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides recap of 2019 health threats and responses (Part 2)

From an outbreak of mysterious lung-injury deaths to America’s near loss of measles elimination status, the beginning of the end of the U.S. HIV epidemic to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), CDC worked around the clock – and around the globe – to protect Americans from domestic and global health threats in 2019.

Here’s a closer look at some of the biggest health issues that CDC tackled this year.

Part 2 of this two-part series deals with disease control and elimination and domestic preparedness and global health security.Part 1, which can be viewed here, focused on the response to outbreaks and threats.

Disease Control and Elimination


Courtesy of the CDC

Progress in HIV prevention has stalled. Gaps in HIV testing, treatment, and prevention hinder efforts to stop new infections. According to a 2019 Vital Signs report, about 8 in 10 new HIV infections in the U.S. in 2016 came from people not in HIV care. Data also suggest that fewer than 25% of the more than 1 million Americans who could benefit from a daily HIV-prevention pill are using it.

In February, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. The plan aims to reduce new HIV infections by 90 percent by 2030. CDC will play a key role in the proposed initiative, which will leverage critical scientific advances in HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and outbreak response by coordinating the highly successful programs, resources, and infrastructure of many HHS agencies and offices.

Ending the HIV Epidemic aims to achieve maximum impact by first focusing efforts on 48 counties and 7 states; Washington, D.C.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico – where half of HIV diagnoses occur annually – as well as on seven states with a substantial rural HIV burden.

In 2019, HHS, through CDC, awarded $16.5 million to state and local health departments to begin building the foundation for Ending the HIV Epidemic and setting the United States on a path for success.


This year, there were more U.S. measles cases than in any of the last 25 years.

As of December 5, CDC reported 1,276 cases of measles in 31 states for 2019. This is the largest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992 (963 cases).

The U.S. maintained its measles elimination status of nearly 20 years after a nearly year-long outbreak in New York City and New York State ended in the fall.

The high number of cases in 2019 was primarily the result of a few large outbreaks – one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018, all of them among close, tight-knit communities. Despite high nationwide coverage with the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, there are still communities where low vaccination rates leave people vulnerable to these dangerous diseases.

Immunization and Vaccination

According to a 2019 CDC Vital Signs report, nearly two-thirds of pregnant women in the United States have not received the two vaccines recommended during pregnancy for influenza and whooping cough (pertussis). Low rates of vaccination during pregnancy leave expecting moms and babies unprotected and at high risk for hospitalization and even death.

To date, influenza activity for the 2019-2020 season in the United States remains low. Receiving a seasonal influenza vaccine each year remains the best way to prevent seasonal flu.

CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, influenza vaccine that is appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status.

In addition to keeping you from getting sick with flu, the vaccine has other benefits including being life-saving for children, protecting pregnant women and their babies, and reducing the risk of a heart attack in people with heart disease.

A recent study published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report revealed that an estimated 92 percent of cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) could be prevented by the HPV vaccine.

CDC recommends that all preteens get the multi-dose HPV vaccine when they are 11 or 12 years old – before they are ever exposed to the virus. However, according to the 2018 National Immunization Survey Teen, only 51 percent of all teens received all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine.

Domestic Preparedness and Global Health Security


As the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues, the number of Ebola cases has reached 3,313 and more than 2,204 deaths.

To rapidly identify cases and prevent further spread of Ebola, CDC continues to work with the U.S. embassy in DRC to rapidly respond to “hotspots” where the security situation is permissible. CDC also continues to closely coordinate with partners across the Department of Health and Human Services on continuing efforts to fight this outbreak.

In June, CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to support the coordinated inter-agency response to the outbreak in eastern DRC.

As of December 13, 2019, CDC staff have conducted 573 deployments to the DRC, neighboring countries, and WHO headquarters. CDC has permanent staff in the three high-risk countries bordering the outbreak (South Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda), including staff in DRC.

DRC has more than 300 graduates of CDC’s Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program who are playing a central role in this public health response.

2020: Looking Ahead

As 2020 approaches, CDC remains vigilant to combat these and other urgent threats. Health threats can arise at any time – at home or abroad – and CDC’s most important mission is always to protect the health of the American public from the unexpected.

To learn more about the work of CDC click here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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