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May 16, 1990

EIS Officers: Medical Detectives

JAMA. 1990;263(19):2566-2569. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440190016005

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WHEN LISTERIOSIS struck the neonatal unit in a Costa Rican hospital about a year ago, the CDC sent Anne Schuckit, MD, to find out why.

The young Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer had investigated one other major outbreak at the time, but it offered little direct guidance for how to approach the new problem. Yet she knew what to do, and no more infants in that hospital became ill.

Tackling outbreaks of diseases as diverse as Schuckit's first encounter with a rapidly transmitted pathogen—which turned out to be sporotrichosis, a fungal infection—and her second, the Listeria bacterium, is par for the EIS course.

Founding the EIS in 1951, Alexander Langmuir, MD, set up a 2-year training and service program designed to accomplish three objectives: (1) to help the CDC implement its mission to prevent and control communicable diseases, (2) to increase the number of field-trained epidemiologists in the United States,