CDC creates emergency center

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are creating the Marcus Emergency Operations Center to track and respond to disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies.

The center is set to open in the fall of 2005, and will become CDC's primary emergency center. The current center, also called Marcus, was activated after the Columbia Space Shuttle in 2003 disaster to communicate with state and local public health officials about possible health hazards from shuttle debris.

As part of the center's information technology resources, the nonprofit CDC Foundation bought 229 Dell Inc. computers through a gift from the Marcus Foundation. Dell is discounting the price by about $180,000.

The Marcus Foundation was founded by Bernie Marcus, who co-founded the Home Depot USA Inc. chain of hardware megastores.

"CDC is the go-to agency in this country in terms of protecting people's health," said Charlie Stokes, president and chief executive officer of the CDC Foundation, which was created by Congress. The emergency operations center will be activated to respond to disease outbreaks, possible bioterrorism attacks, natural disasters or events such as the shuttle explosion, he said.

CDC has been a Dell customer for many years, said Michael Dell, company chairman. During a visit today to the CDC facility in Atlanta, he said his company strongly supports CDC's mission.

"These issues of public health are important and significant," he said. "The nation's stepping up to the challenge that's presented. The number of challenges and the type are somewhat unpredictable. It's imperative that the CDC put in place something like this."

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