This Thanksgiving Day, 170 CDC disease detectives, public health experts, and communication specialists will not be home celebrating with loved ones. They’ll be in West Africa, working to contain the Ebola epidemic.
Some of them are deep in remote areas, far from the home comforts we take for granted. Some are traveling on dangerous roads, by helicopter, and in dugout canoes to help stop outbreaks of Ebola. They do many critical things such as trace contacts so they can be isolated, and treated if necessary, to improve their survival and prevent spread of the epidemic. Others swelter in personal protective equipment to prepare blood samples for Ebola testing in mobile labs. Still others stay up late into the night poring over epidemiologic data to see where teams will need to be sent the next day.
Our workers on the front lines are supported by hundreds of equally hard-working staff back in Atlanta who keep CDC’s Emergency Operations Center running 24/7. They’ve been working at full speed for more than four months, and will keep going until the job is done. Thousands of other equally dedicated CDC workers continue to protect Americans from other health threats, ranging from influenza to drug-resistant infections and more. And there are teams to jump in at a moment’s notice in the event there is another case of Ebola here in the United States.
None of these extraordinarily dedicated women and men are strangers to work on holidays, weekends, or after-hours. They aren’t doing it to get rich or famous. And they won’t get thank-you letters from the millions of Americans and others around the world who won’t get sick or injured because of their work. Public health successes are usually invisible – the “dog that doesn’t bark in the night.”
Please join me in recognizing them on this day of Thanksgiving. Epidemiologists, lab scientists, public health specialists, world experts in every aspect of public health, and so many more – we all owe them thanks for the work they do at home and abroad to keep us safe and healthy.
Tom Frieden is the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.