Epidemiology is the branch of public health that works to describe and understand the diseases and risk factors for those diseases in our community. Epidemiologists study the factors and relationships that determine the presence, numbers, trends and distribution of diseases in communities and specific populations.
The epidemiologist at the Health Department:
- Provides information on disease prevention and control
- Performs surveillance
- Reviews health data and performs health trend analysis
- Consults with community partners on local health issues
- Creates surveys to study health behaviors and program effectiveness then tabulates and analyzes the responses
Our epidemiologist works with staff in all areas to evaluate programs, investigate disease outbreaks and provide statistical analysis on collected data.
Healthcare providers are required by law to report certain communicable diseases to the health department. They are required to provide the patient’s name, address, birth date, sex, phone number and diagnosis (3701-3-03 OAC). The list of reportable diseases may vary slightly from state to state. Follow up testing for some diseases and workplace or school restrictions are also addressed (3701-3-13 OAC).
Reports of suspected and confirmed cases of disease are made to the local health department where the patient lives. Delaware General Health District will then determine if further follow up is needed. Follow-up will be based on whether the communicable disease is suspected or lab-confirmed, number of people ill, and if the disease is on the Reportable Disease List for Ohio.
You can notify the DGHD of a reportable disease one of three ways:
- Mail the lab result to the DGHD
- Fax the lab result to 740-203-2044, the DGHD’s confidential fax line for communicable disease
- Call the DGHD, 740-368-1700, and ask to speak with a member of the CD Team
When a (reportable) disease report is received, a member of the Communicable Disease Team may call the patient. Information such as onset date, symptoms, treatment, and information on any other persons who are ill or have been exposed may be gathered. Information about the disease will be explained. Questions you may have will be answered.
The Delaware General Health District nurse or epidemiologist will look for common sources which may cause the disease to spread. This may involve interviewing many of the affected persons if there is a large confirmed outbreak of a disease.
The Health District keeps communicable disease reports confidential. We do not release your name to the media. We do not release your name to your co-workers, or even discuss your case with your family members without your express permission. (We will talk to parents about their child’s illness except in cases of sexually transmitted diseases, for which a minor can legally seek treatment without parental consent.) We do not verify information on cases to anyone except the physician involved and possibly to other health departments should there be an outbreak with patients living in multiple jurisdictions.
A patient’s name would be released by the health department to the media only in very rare circumstances, e.g. the patient was non-compliant and putting the health of the community at grave risk of serious illness.
Some diseases can be spread by food, water or even coughing. The Health District asks for specific information from you depending on your illness so that contacts that may become sick can be identified. We also look at possible food or water sources so that a potential outbreak can be controlled.
“Disease Fact Sheets” available from the Ohio Department of Health describe:
- the communicable disease
- the source of the disease
- prevention measures to minimize exposure to the illness and control the spread of disease