Have you heard of Hansen’s Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Q Fever or Psittacosis? Don’t worry, Hansen’s disease is not what you get if you listen to songs from the 90’s band on repeat, so rest assured you can continue to enjoy singing and listening to “MMMBop” as much as you would like. And no, Psittacosis is not from eating too many pistachios. These are just four of the 70+ reportable diseases staff in our Epidemiology unit investigate if a resident from Northern Kentucky is diagnosed.
902 KAR 2:020 requires health professionals, labs and others to report certain diseases to the local health department serving the jurisdiction in which the patient resides, or to the Department for Public Health. This list of diseases is called reportable or notifiable diseases. Many of the diseases that are reportable are recognizable or known, like influenza, pertussis and chickenpox. Others, like those listed previously, are less common but still reportable. Reportable diseases have different time frames in which they are to be reported, and a specific procedure for reporting. Some diseases, like indicators of bioterrorism, unexpected patterns of cases, suspected cases or deaths from a newly recognizable agent, are reportable immediately. Others can be reported in 24 hours, one business day or up to five business days. The time frame for each disease is based on the public health response. Immediately reportable diseases and other emergencies typically mean we need to initiate a response quickly, such as providing medications to those impacted, vaccinating to prevent illness or breaking the chain of infection.
Once a report is made on a diagnosed or suspect case, staff in the Epidemiology unit initiate investigations. The investigation includes gathering critical details such as demographics, signs and symptoms, clinical status, lab information, patient location, and risk factors. Health care providers, patients and family members of patients may be contacted to obtain information. There are also disease-specific collection tools that ask a set of questions unique to the disease. Contact tracing occurs in some cases of disease to help track individuals who have been exposed to a disease, to identify more cases, and to alert the individuals to monitor themselves for symptoms. All information gathered is submitted to the state and in some cases, the CDC. Necessary prevention and control measures are then put into place.
In 2019, NKY Health received 8,280 reports of flu and 3,381 reports of other diseases, for a total of 11,661 reports. That’s an average of 32 reports every day just in Northern Kentucky. The volume of reports certainly speaks to the importance of proper hand washing (sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands), covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when you are ill. Stay healthy everyone!
By: Stephanie Vogel, M.Ed., MCHES
Director of Population Health