By law, certain health conditions must be reported to the state of Iowa whenever they are diagnosed. Examples of the more than 40 reportable health conditions are tuberculosis, hepatitis A, chlamydia, rabies and lead poisoning.
One of the functions of a local health department is following up the diagnoses. Follow up could include phone interviews with potentially exposed individuals, collecting samples for lab testing and referral to appropriate treatment.
A key to halting the spread of an infectious disease is identifying and testing everyone who might have been exposed. The Dallas County Health Department is supported in these efforts by the Center of Acute Disease Epidemiology (CADE), a bureau within the Iowa Department of Public Health that is tasked with protecting us from infectious disease.
We are exposed to negative health situations through different means of transmission. Using the examples above, we can note that tuberculosis is airborne, and hepatitis A spreads via stool, chlamydia through sexual contact, rabies from animal bites and lead poisoning through environmental exposure.
Public health officials respond to reports with informed, real-time decisions. They might recommend quarantine, removal of infected people from a food-preparation job or removal of children from a building with lead-based paint. The practice of timely and accurate reporting protects all of us.
Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.