Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Dr. Wellbee and the Thanksgiving visit to the CDC

Somewhat appropriately, I got sick after I visited my cousin for Thanksgiving: she works at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. I’m still catching up on California. Meanwhile, I got a look around at the CDC while I was there, including this Global Health Odyssey exhibit they have in the lobby for visitors.

Mostly, the CDC’s exhibit featured public health issues, and epidemiology. I had known a little about Legionnaire’s disease; I had, I think always assumed that it related to the French Foreign Legion, rather than the American Legion convention at which the outbreak occurred. I hadn’t ever known about the CDC’s origins in maritime health safety.

Meet Dr. Wellbee. (Oh. I just got it. Seriously.) He first encouraged polio vaccinations, and by 1964 was the national bug-doctor of the CDC. I know I'll regret saying this, but I see a hipster t-shirt here.

It was all a fascinating insight into how the CDC and other public health agencies have communicated with the public. What I liked best were the different public health posters from different countries - all of which had different tones. Chinese posters were very officious and formal, and not, I think, just because of translation issues. Around WWII, jaunty women warned GI’s that they may not be as “clean” as they look. And the French language countries had the most wit.

The slogan on this poster from Martinique translates as “The Martinique association of rats, mice, mosquitoes, and flies thanks you.” The image is of trash in the streets.

This poster from France, from the Tarn-et-Garonne region in the Midi-Pyrenees, aims to combat venereal disease. A red banner at the top advertises the French national league against the venereal peril. The horse race is “the race to death.” Tuberculosis and syphillis claimed 150-thousand and 140-thousand lives a year; cancer a comparatively small 40-thousand.

The CDC was a very secure place. I got to see the “Arlen Specter Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center” - a/k/a Building 21 - but I’m pretty sure I would have been tackled if I had whipped out the camera in there. Elsewhere on the campus, they study bioterrorism agents after all.

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