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September 2, 1983

Epidemic intelligence thrives on mystery

Author Affiliations

1983 Morris Fishbein Fellow

JAMA. 1983;250(9):1131-1132. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340090007004

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When they race around Emory University's presidential estate, they are perhaps the most select group of cross-country runners in the world. Hailing from as far away as the jungles of Jakarta, the valleys of Ouagadougou, Upper Volta, and the streets of São Paulo, 150 entrants compete over the course. But the runner who crosses the finish line first is not the winner.

Instead, in keeping with the group's precision in predicting epidemics around the world, the winner is the person who can most accurately predict his or her time over the meticulously measured 3,218.688-meter "EIS Prediction Run."

EIS stands for Epidemic Intelligence Service, and the runners are all present or former members of this elite investigative corps of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta (JAMA MEDICAL NEWS 1979;241:2776-2782). In the last few years, EIS officers have been responsible for large parts of such major achievements as determining the