Timeline of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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This is a timeline of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading national public health institute of the United States.

Big picture

Year/period Key developments
1950s First years of CDC, whose survival as an institution remains initially uncertain.[1] Beginning in the 1950s, CDC engineers begin work to improve public health while developing the fields of environmental health, industrial hygiene and control of air pollution.[2] Two major health crises concerning poliomyelitis and influenza and well managed by CDC in the mid-1950s establishes its credibility and ensures its survival.[1]
1980s In the 1980s, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is discovered and becomes primary emergency. One of the largest portions of CDC's budget and staff is assigned to address this disease.[1] Since the 1980s, CDC supports influenza surveillance and laboratory capacity globally.[3]
1990s CDC continues applying classic field-oriented epidemiology, and develops new methodologies. The disciplines of health economics and decision sciences merge to create prevention effectiveness, a new area of emphasis, as an approach for making more rational choices for public health interventions.[1]
21st century From 2007 to 2016 CDC would respond to over 20 crises each affecting over 10,000 people. From 2011 to 2016, CDC would deploy staff for over 380 missions in more than 40 countries to apply public health principles and epidemiologic science to mitigate the health impacts of complex emergencies.[3] Today, CDC is both the United States prevention agency and a global leader in public health.[1]


Year Type of event Event
1937 Prelude Malaria control specialist Louis Laval Williams devises a model state health department organizational scheme for controlling malaria in the United States, employing a three-pronged attack incorporating the medical, entomological and engineering professions. Twelve southern states adopt his program.[4]
1942 Development The United States Public Health Service, citing a need for better malaria control in military areas, obtains money to create Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA), which they headquarter in Atlanta, Georgia. MCWA is CDC’s predecessor.[5]
1944 Personnel Engineer Mark D. Hollis assumes office as first director of Malaria Control in War Areas.[2][6][7]
1946 Development CDC opens as the "Communicable Disease Center" in the old Office of Malaria Council in War Areas of downtown Atlanta.[8] The CDC is organized in Atlanta, with American physician Joseph Walter Mountin as its founder.[1]
1947 Personnel Raymond A. Vonderlehr assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1947 Development CDC’s headquarters become permanently attached to Atlanta after Emory University provides 15 acres of land.[5]
1948 Development The Malaria Control in War Areas program transitions into the Communicable Disease Center (CDC).[9]
1948 Development The Laboratory Division at the Lawson Veterans Administration Hospital in Chamblee, Georgia", is stationed by CDC.[9]
1948 Development CDC is established for communicable diseases.[9]
1949 Personnel American epidemiologist Alexander Langmuir assumes office of the epidemiology branch. Within months, Langmuir would launch the first-ever disease surveillance program.[1]
1949 Program CDC begins tackling salmonella.[10]
1949 Branch CDC’s Reference Diagnostic Service Center becomes available to all public health laboratories. Practicing physicians who have hard-to-identify specimens submit through their health departments.[9]
1950 Program A team of CDC physicians, engineers, and entomologists is sent to Southeast Asia to assist in developing malaria control programs and public health programs as part of an overall technical and economic assistance program"[9]
1950 Branch The CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) is created, motivated by the outbreak of the Korean War, and the threat of biological warfare.[1]
1951 Program CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service program is established. The first class of EIS officers arrive in Atlanta for training and pledge to go wherever they are called for the next 2 years. These "disease detectives" would quickly gain fame for "shoe-leather epidemiology" through which they find the cause of disease outbreaks. Within the two years, the program would give fellows on-the-job training in surveillance and response units that deal with all sorts of epidemics including chronic disease, injuries and, now, bioterrorism.[11][12]
1952 Personnel Justin M. Andrews assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1953 Personnel American Infectious disease specialist Theodore J. Bauer assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1953 System CDC National Tuberculosis Surveillance System is established.[13]
1953 The first case of rabies in a bat is reported by CDC.[9]
1953 Program The Communicable Disease Center National Surveillance Program is developed to maintain constant vigilance over communicable diseases to respond immediately when an outbreak occurs.[9]
1954 Branch CDC establishes a National Rabies Control Activities Unit, with aims at providing a coordinated program for all aspects of the disease.[9]
1955 Branch CDC establishes the Polio Surveillance Unit.[8]
1955 Recognition CDC gains worldwide recognition for the quality and quantity of its contributions to the taxonomy of the Enterobacteriaceae, a family of germs that are difficult to treat because of their resistance to antibiotics.[9]
1956 Personnel Robert J. Anderson assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1956 Medical development CDC develops a fluorescent antibody test for rapidly identifying bacterial and viral pathogens.[8]
1957 Development The Venereal Disease Division is transferred from the United States Public Health Service to CDC, bringing two important innovations to its activities: a grant program and a new kind of employee, public health advisors.[1][9]
1958 Branch CDC establishes the Influenza Surveillance Unit (1958).[8]
Late 1950s Policy CDC acquires exclusive federal authority over communicable diseases.[14]
1959 The Standard New Jersey light trap is modified to create the CDC light trap, a light-weight and portable mosquito trap to collect samples in swamps and remote areas where electricity is not available.[9]
1960 Policy CDC sets national blood lead levels of concern at sixty micrograms per deciliter of blood.[15]
1960 Personnel Clarence A. Smith assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1960 Program The Tuberculosis Program is transferred from the United States Public Health Service to CDC.[1][9]
1960 Research The first National Health Examination Survey is conducted to collect data on the total prevalence of certain chronic diseases as well as the distribution of various physical and physiological measures.[9]
1961 Research CDC starts to explore birth defects and its association with cancer.[16]
1961 Literature CDC starts publishing weekly magazine Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a weekly compilation of deaths and disease causes from all over the United States..[17][18][9]
1962 Personnel American physician James L. Goddard assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1962 Branch CDC lipid reference laboratory is designated as the WHO Collaborating Center for Reference and Research in Blood Lipids.[19]
1962 Policy CDC schedule recommends 3 childhood vaccines by age 5.[20]
1962 Branch CDC establishes a smallpox surveillance unit.[1]
1963 Medical development CDC tests a newly developed jet gun and smallpox vaccine in Tonga.[1]
1964 CDC holds first meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), to provide advice and guidance on the appropriate use of biologics and other preventive medical agents for effective disease control in the civilian population.[9]
1965 Collaboration CDC teams with USAID and proposes including smallpox eradication. Both organizations would spend the next year generating support among the 18 West and Central African countries that are prospective hosts for the program and working out collaboration with WHO.[21]
1966 Personnel American public health official David Sencer assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1966 Expansion CDC begins work in Central and West Africa.[1]
1966 Program CDC begins the worldwide smallpox eradication campaign in Africa.[22]
1966 Program CDC announces a national measles eradication campaign at the American Public Health Association meeting.[9]
1966 Program The International Malaria Eradication Program is transferred to CDC from the United States Agency for International Development (AID).[9]
1967 Development The Communicable Disease Center is renamed the National Communicable Disease Center.[23]
1967 Policy CDC acquires quarantine authority.[24]
1967 Program CDC begins the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP) a population-based tracking system for birth defects in collaboration with Georgia Mental Health Institute and the Emory University School of Medicine.[9]
1967 Development The Foreign Quarantine Service is transferred from the Public Health Service to CDC.[1]
1968 Program CDC Laboratory-based Enteric Disease Surveillance system (LEDS) is established, and begins collecting serotype and demographic data for every Salmonella isolate obtained from a human and submitted to US state and territorial public health laboratories.[25]
1968 Policy The National Communicable Disease Center (NCDC) becomes a bureau within the United States Public Health Service.[9]
1969 CDC helps set up a quarantine protocol for the Apollo 11 astronauts after their first walk on the moon.[26]
1970 Program CDC establishes the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance system, to monitor trends in infections acquired in hospital settings.[8]
1970 Literature CDC releases guidelines designed to isolate specific patients in given areas within a hospital.4-6 Seven categories of isolation are described.[27]
1970 Development The National Communicable Disease Center (NCDC) is renamed Center for Disease Control (CDC).[9]
1970 Program The Nutrition Program is transferred to CDC, charged with assessing severe malnutrition in the United States and abroad.[9]
1971 Scientific development CDC discovers that hepatitis B is sexually transmitted.[8]
1971 Collaboration CDC begins a cooperative effort with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stimulate investigation and reporting of waterborne outbreaks with the goal of prevention.[28]
1972 Program CDC campaigns to eradicate measles all together by 1982.[29]
1972 Program CDC establishes the national gonorrhea control program.[9]
1973 Branch CDC establishes the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as an egency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.[8]
1973 Branch CDC establishes an Office of Biosafety.[9]
1973 International intervention CDC begins regularly responding to public health crises abroad by providing famine assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa.[9]
1974 Branch CDC establishes the Bureau of Health Education, with the purpose of developing health curriculum for schools.[9]
1974 Program CDC initiates the SENIC project, which would thereafter collect data in 338 randomly selected US hospitals. The objectives of the study are to estimate the magnitude of the nosocomial infection problem in US hospitals, to describe the extent of hospitals' infection surveillance and control programs, and to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of these programs in reducing nosocomial infection risks.[30]
1975 Literature CDC publishes its first statement on lead poisoning, "Increased. Lead Absorption and Lead Poisoning in. Young Children."[31]
1975 Program CDC establishes the vessel sanitation program in cooperation with the cruise ship industry. VSP assists the cruise ship industry to prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships.[9][32]
1976 Branch The National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health (precursor to the Office on Smoking and Health) is transferred to CDC.[9]
1976 International intervention CDC sends disease detectives to investigate two large outbreaks of an unknown deadly hemorrhagic fever in Zaire and Sudan, a disease later known as ebola.[9]
1977 Personnel American epidemiologist William Foege assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1977 Branch CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reorganizes, assumes new mine safety and health responsibilities, and publishes Occupational Diseases: A Guide to Their Recognition.[9]
1977 Publication CDC first publishes recommendations for the control of hepatitis B in dialysis. This is later replaced by the current recommendations for preventing the transmission of infections in dialysis facilities.[33]
1978 Publication CDC publishes the first Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).[9]
1978 Conference CDC holds the first international conference on Legionnaires' disease.[9]
1978 Program CDC establishes the first national health objectives for 1990.[9]
Late 1970s CDC formulates a list of its main priorities, the most serious health problems facing the United States. The list includes smoking, alcohol abuse, unwanted pregnancies, car accidents, workplace injuries, environmental hazards, social disorders, suicide, homicide, mental illness, and stress.[14]
1979 The world is declared smallpox-free.[22]
1979 Policy CDC assumes lead responsibility in the United States Public Health Service for environmental emergency response.[9]
1979 CDC endorses the goal of reducing the number of privately owned handguns, with an initial target of a 25 percent decrease by 2000.[14]
1980 Development CDC is renamed the Centers (plural) for Disease Control and begins to establish various centers within the CDC such as the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH).[23]
1980 International intervention CDC begins assisting other countries to develop their own field epidemiology training programs (FETPs), modeling them after the highly successful Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program.[34]
1980 Branch The United States Congress creates the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, as a “sister agency” to CDC.[35]
1980 Literature The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) publishes the first report on a newly-recognized illness associated with tampon use: toxic shock syndrome; CDC organizes a task force to study the illness.[35]
1982 Program CDC begins an international campaign to gather support for elimination of dracunculiasis.[35]
1982 CDC receives first reports of AIDS in persons with hemophilia, other transfusion recipients, and in infants born to mothers with AIDS.[35]
1983 Personnel American medical doctor James O. Mason assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1983 Branch The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is established; collecting data on emergency events involving the release of hazardous substances in the United States.[35]
1983 Policy CDC schedule raises recommendation to 10 childhood vaccines by age 5.[20]
1983 Branch CDC establishes the Violence Epidemiology Branch to focus its public health efforts in violence prevention.[36]
1983 Branch CDC establishes the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which collects data on emergency events involving the release of hazardous substances in the United States.[35]
1983 Program CDC establishes the National AIDS Hotline to handle the growing number of calls concerning the AIDS virus.[35]
1984 Program CDC’s Prevention Research Center program is authorized by the United States Congress as a network of academic health centers to conduct applied public health research.[36]
1984 System CDC establishes the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).[36]
1985 Publication CDC publishes the first obesity map based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) data.[37]
1985 Conference CDC cosponsors the first International Conference on AIDS.[35]
1986 Branch CDC establishes the Division of Epidemiology and Control.[36]
1987 Scientific development CDC publishes the first in a series of articles about the prevalence and rate of HIV infection among racial/ethnic minority groups in the United States.[38]
1987 Program The Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk (SENSOR) program is established at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.[35]
1987 Development The National Center for Health Statistics becomes an organizational component of CDC.[35]
1988 Branch CDC, in partnership with the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), creates the National Laboratory Training Network (NLTN). Since then the NLTN would train thousands of laboratorians, providing access to critical training information needed to increase their competency and improve their knowledge.[39]
1988 Program CDC develops the Disabilities Prevention Program to provide a national focus for the prevention of disabilities.[35]
1989 Program The National Laboratory Training Network is established with the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Laboratory Directors in seven sites, to improve laboratory training programs and communication among participants.[35]
1990 Personnel William L. Roper assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1990 Publication CDC publishes the “Guidelines for Investigating Clusters of Health Events,” in which a four-stage process is presented. This document provides a framework that most state health departments would adopt, with modifications pertaining to their specific situations, available resources, and philosophy concerning disease clusters.[40]
1990 CDC launches the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (later Strategic National Stockpile), a stockpile of drugs, vaccines, and other medical products and supplies, to provide for the emergency health security of the United States and its territories.[41]
1990 System The Safe Water System (SWS) is developed by CDC and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), to protect communities from contaminated water by promoting behavior change and providing affordable and sustainable solutions.[41]
1990 Program CDC develops guidelines for Telecommunications Systems for Surveillance, with aims at providing a systematic framework for public health surveillance data.[41]
1991 Program CDC creates the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). Since the start of the program, more than 28,000 women would have cervical cancers or precancerous lesions detected through this free or low-cost screening.[42]
1991 Branch CDC establishes the Division of Oral Health to expand efforts to prevent oral disease and conditions.[41]
1991 Program A national strategic plan begins for early detection and control of breast and cervical cancers among all American women.[41]
1992 Development CDC again changes its name to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[23] The agency is asked by the United States Congress to continue using the initials “CDC”.[41]
1992 Branch CDC reactivates its guideline development process with the formation of The Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC).[43][23]
1992 Branch CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control is established.[41]
1993 Program CDC establishes PulseNET, a database comprised of DNA “fingerprints” of bacteria isolated from patients and food. Since then, PulseNET, receiving data from over 650 laboratories, would compare thousands of DNA fingerprints, thereby providing information about foodborne illness outbreaks that would have otherwise gone undetected.[44]
1993 Personnel American physician David Satcher assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1993 Branch CDC establishes the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Unit in the Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the National Center for Environmental Health.[41]
1993 Branch The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) is established.[41]
1994 CDC and the National Institute of Justice collaborate on the National Violence against Women Survey.[36]
1994 Program The CDC Emerging Infections Program is established. Since then, it would provide a large amount of data on antibiotic–resistant infections (such as respiratory bacterial infections, healthcare–associated infections, and some aspects of foodborne illnesses).[45]
1994 Branch The CDC/ATSDR Office of Women's Health (OWH) is established to promote and improve the health, safety, and quality of life of women.[46]
1994 Literature CDC issues its Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Health-Care Facilities which, among other things, advises a risk-based approach to screening.[47]
1994 The Emerging Infections Program (EIP) is established in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 1994 strategy, Addressing Emerging Infectious Disease Threats: A Prevention Strategy for the United States.[41]
1995 Collaboration CDC partners with the American College of Sports Medicine to develop the first recommendations for physical activity in adults.[48]
1996 Program CDC establishes the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), to provide a framework for research collaborations among universities, large and small businesses, professional societies, government agencies, and worker organizations.[41]
1996 Program Pulsenet, a national network of laboratories, launches to help detect and define outbreaks using the DNA of the foodborne bacteria making people sick.[41]
1997 Collaboration CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture initiate the National Food Safety Initiative (NFSI) as an effort to decrease the incidence and risks of foodborne illness.[49]
1998 Program CDC leads the creation of a Web-based system for the exchange of information by epidemiologists, EpiX. This system would grow to reach more than 800 public health professionals, providing updates on outbreaks of infectious disease and other public health threats and emergencies.[39]
1998 Personnel Jeffrey P. Koplan assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
1999 Literature CDC issues the Guideline for Prevention of Surgical Site Infection as as a series of recommendations for the prevention of surgical site infections made by a panel of experts. The guidelines would serve the surgical community for many years.[50]
1999 Program CDC launches the Syphilis Elimination Effort to take advantage of a narrow window of opportunity to eliminate the disease and to significantly decrease one of the US's most glaring racial disparities in health.[51]
2000 CDC receives congressional appropriations to establish 10 National Academic Centers of Excellence for Youth Violence Prevention.[36]
2000 Literature CDC releases US DHHS Blueprint for Breastfeeding.[48]
2000 Branch CDC sets up Centers of Public Health Preparedness to strengthen terrorism and emergency preparedness by connecting academic expertise with state and local health needs.[52]
2001 Branch CDC establishes the Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium (TBESC). It is composed of 22 collaborative research groups, each existing as a formal partnership between an academic institution and a state or metropolitan TB control program.[53]
2001 Branch The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at CDC is established by the Children’s Health Act, which expands research and services for a variety of childhood health problems and authorizes the establishment of Centers of Excellence at both CDC and the National Institutes of Health to promote research and monitoring efforts related to autism.[54]
2001 Branch The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) is established.[54]
2002 Personnel American infectious disease expert Julie Gerberding assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
2002 Program The CDC’s Healthier Worksite Initiative begins.[48]
2002 Program CDC develops and implements its Healthier Worksite Initiative on the CDC’s campuses. The initiative is based on the recognition that worksites are to adults as schools are to children and adolescents, insofar as adults spend a lot of time at worksites, and worksites present opportunities to modify food choices and promote physical activity.[55]
2003 Program CDC initiates the CDC Periodontal Disease Surveillance Project in collaboration with the American Academy of Periodontology to address population-based surveillance of periodontal disease at the local, state, and national levels.[56]
2004 Program Following the 2002–2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, the United States Congress authorizes funding for CDC to establish a regional Global Disease Detection (GDD) Program.[3]
2004 Collaboration CDC collaborates with the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States to promote the Family History Initiative, the first public campaign addressing the issue of family health history. The Initiative designates Thanksgiving Day as National Family History Day. A web-based tool, My Family Health Portrait, is created to help people collect the disease histories of their families.[54]
2004 Program CDC establishes a national blood safety monitoring program for thalassemia, with the goal to monitor blood safety and strategies for the management of complications.[57]
2004 System CDC develops a Web-based enterprise vocabulary system called the Public Health Information Network Vocabulary Access and Distribution System (PHIN VADS). PHIN MQF introduces vocabulary validation through a real time integration with PHIN VADS by accessing the Web services to validate that the vocabulary is valid for the specified message.[58]
2004 – 2010 Program CDC funds the Centers for Public Health Preparedness (CPHP) Cooperative Agreement program, giving approximately US$ 134 million to 27 CPHPs within accredited schools of public health to enhance the relationship between academia and state and local health agencies to strengthen public health preparedness.[59]
2005 Publication CDC releases the CDC Guide to Breastfeeding Interventions.[48]
2006 Controversy CDC is placed on probation by the international accreditation group, the International Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, for serious problems in caring for their research animals.[60]
2007 Branch CDC establishes the Global Disease Detection Operations Center (GDDOC) to identify and monitor health threats to the American public and global community.[3]
2008 Program CDC establishes the Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network.[48]
2008 Program CDC creates the Global Public Health Informatics Program (GPHIP) to advance the science of public health informatics and further the CDC’s international objectives. GPHIP teams up with the global public health community to encourage data-driven decisions and implement best practices to create, refine, and carry out health information systems.[61]
2008 Literature CDC publishes a new edition of its NHSN definitions of healthcare-associated infections and the criteria to apply the definitions of the infections.[62]
2008 Literature CDC publishes guidelines for disinfection and sterilization in health care facilities based on the latest evidence available at that time.[63]
2008 CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activates for Hurricane Dolly; Tropical Storm Edouard, Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and Ike.[54]
2009 Program The CDC Emerging Infections Program launches a program and creates the Healthcare-Associated Infections Community Interface (HAIC) Activity, an essential tool providing with up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of healthcare-associated infections and the drug-resistant organisms that commonly cause them.[45]
2009 Personnel American infectious disease and public health expert Tom Frieden assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
2012 Program CDC launches the groundbreaking “Tips from Former Smokers” national ad campaign to increase awareness about the human suffering caused by smoking and to encourage smokers to quit.[64]
2013 Program CDC develops the free-to-use MicrobeNet, an online database which provides to public health laboratories with immediate access to the CDC’s virtual microbe library that contains more than 2,400 infectious bacteria and fungi.[65]
2013 Branch CDC activates its Emergency Operations Center to investigate a novel coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).[64]
2013 Program CDC establishes its PHEM Fellowship Program in response to increasing global requests for more sustained emergency management.[3]
2013 CDC receives accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.[3]
2014 CDC confirms the first travel-associated case of Ebola (the index case) to be diagnosed in the United States in a man who had traveled from West Africa to Dallas, Texas. The patient passed away from Ebola on October 8, 2014.[66]
2016 System CDC launches an electronic system to help state and territory health officials report illnesses and environmental data specific to the threat.[67]
2017 Personnel American obstetrician-gynecologist Brenda Fitzgerald assumes office as director of CDC.[6]
2017 Branch The CDC Workplace Health Resource Center is launched as a source for reliable evidence and best practices to improve worker health and productivity, address research gaps, and potentially reduce health care costs.[68]

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