While illness to an individual is the concern of physicians and other medical professionals, the focus for local public health agencies like the St. Charles County Department of Public Health is the spread of disease in large groups of people. Through this focus, we’ve learned a great deal about how illnesses affect a community and been able to minimize the impact of large disease outbreaks.
|INVESTIGATING ILLNESS MAKES US ALL BETTER
Partnering to Protect Health
Public Health is responsible for monitoring contagious illnesses and preventing their spread. In the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, a region-wide partnership conducts surveillance and analyzes medical data to monitor these threats to the community. Hospitals, doctors’ offices and other medical professionals report incidences of specific diseases (http://www.sccmo.org/618/How-to-Report), and local health departments communicate with those affected to minimize the spread of that illness to others. This network monitors our community’s health status to:
- Track the number of people who may be affected and monitor the spread to other populations.
- Evaluate the success of prescribed treatments to efficiently utilize available resources.
- Educate those who are not be affected on effective methods to keep them healthy.
Public Health Investigation
When a disease report is received for an illness that is potentially serious or is easily spread from person-to-person, the Epidemiology and Communicable Disease programs take action. This action includes contact with the affected individual or their caregiver, interviews to determine with whom this person may have interacted, referrals to medical providers for beneficial treatments and follow-through to ensure the treatment is followed. If the investigation is the result of a food-borne illness, staff will seek to identify the original cause of the outbreak — often problems with food sources, storage, or preparation techniques — to stop the immediate harm and recommend better procedures for the future.
When a community investigation is conducted, individuals play a key role as well. To prevent further illness, follow tried and true hygiene and prevention techniques to help keep yourself and your family out of harm’s way. If you do become sick, alert your doctor or medical provider and follow all prescribed treatments to fight the illness. Being honest and open with health professionals conducting the investigation will help to minimize disruption, speed the inquiry, and provide vital facts.
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