With concern growing about Ebola in the United States, the CDC is suddenly in the spotlight. Here's why: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the government agency in charge of protecting the public's health.
While only two cases of Ebola are known to have been transmitted in the United States — in Dallas nurses who treated a Liberian patient who later died — the CDC's job includes helping stop the virus plaguing West Africa from spreading in this country.
Here are a few key things to know about the CDC:
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE CDC?
Based in Atlanta, the CDC is a leading agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Thomas Frieden, 53, is the agency's 16th leader and has been director since 2009. The agency has more than 15,000 employees, with staff in every state and more than 50 countries.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
The CDC may be best known for tracking and preventing diseases, including common germs like the flu, vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles and whooping cough, and food poisoning outbreaks. Its disease-prevention work includes keeping Americans safe from health threats abroad. To help fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the agency has set up training courses for doctors, nurses and other health workers heading to West Africa to treat patients there.
Its other missions include researching health problems, promoting health and wellness, and keeping tabs on birth and death rates, life expectancy and other statistics.
WHAT ARE ITS CENTERS?
The CDC's title refers to centers within the agency with a specific focus, including infectious diseases, chronic diseases, environmental health, injury prevention and birth defects.
AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at http://www/twitter.com/CDC .