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Epidemiology

is the study of the distribution and determinants of disease in a population. Public health epidemiologists monitor the health and illness of a population, investigate the factors that affect the community's health, and recommend interventions to reduce the risk of disease. Epidemiology is practiced in health departments daily and involves principles of surveillance, investigation, laboratory testing, data management and communication.


Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Current Situation
The countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia continue to experience an outbreak of Ebola, with a total of 17,834 cases as of December 6, 2014. A recent increase in cases in the country of Mali has been observed as well. For the most up-to-date information, including case counts, visit the CDC Ebola Outbreak webpage.

Public health efforts to control disease transmission include:

  • Airport exit screening of travelers leaving countries experiencing widespread Ebola transmission. Travelers determined to have symptoms are detained for further evaluation.
  • Airport entrance screening of travelers from Ebola-affected countries entering the United States. Travelers are evaluated for symptoms and risk of Ebola exposure.
  • Post-arrival 21 day monitoring of all travelers from Ebola-affected countries entering the United States. Travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mali are monitored for 21 days by public health authorities.

What is Ebola?
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is one of several Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It a rare and deadly disease caused by one of the Ebola virus strains. People who become infected typically develop fever, headache, weakness, joint and muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and loss of appetite. Some people may also begin to hemorrhage (bleed) inside and outside of the body. It is spread by direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with an infected person’s blood or body fluids, such as urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen. It is also spread through contact with objects (like needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions. For more information, see the CDC Ebola fact sheet.

Risk in the U.S.
Transmission of the virus requires direct contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids or contact with objects contaminated with infected secretions. Therefore, there is no significant risk for widespread transmission in the U.S.

Healthcare providers in the U.S.
CDC encourages all U.S. healthcare providers to

  • Take good travel histories of their patients to determine if they have traveled to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia or Mali within the last 3 weeks.
  • Know the symptoms of Ebola—fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and lack of appetite, and in some cases bleeding.
  • For symptomatic patients with recent travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia or Mali or contact with a known case, isolate the patient properly, then follow infection control precautions to prevent spread.
  • Contact your local health department to discuss any suspected case and testing.

For complete Ebola Information for Healthcare Providers and Facilities, click here.

Information Resources
For more information about Ebola and what the Virginia Department of Health is doing, visit the VDH Ebola website or call 211.

Ebola

Contact Information

Communicable Disease Fax Line
(804) 862-6294

Emergency After-Hours Call Number
(866)-531-3068

District Epidemiologist
Louise Lockett, MPH
(804) 862-8986
Tuberculosis Nurse
Angelia Brennan, RN
(804) 862-8901
Communicable Disease Nurse
Catherine Bailey, RN
(804) 862-7617
STI Intervention Specialist
Tia Sanchez
(804) 862-8923
CD/TB Outreach
Charmin Davis
(804) 862-8902
STI Intervention Specialist
Sterling Stewart
(804) 862-8927

Resources for Health Care Professionals

Communicable Disease Quarterly Report

Request for Epi-1 Forms

Request for Data

Online Resources

Office of Epidemiology
Home page for VDH’s Office of Epidemiology.  It will connect you with the Divisions of Surveillance and Investigation, Disease Prevention, Environmental Epidemiology, Immunization and Radiological Health.

Disease Regulation Information
Contains the complete regulations for disease reporting and control for Virginia.  You will also find the reportable disease list, conditions reportable by laboratories, outbreak reporting requirements and the reporting form (Epi-1). 

Disease Fact Sheets
Contains all of VDH's disease fact sheets. From head lice to whooping cough to West Nile Virus, this is the first stop for quick, reliable disease information. Fact sheets are also available here in Spanish.

Communicable Disease Chart for Schools
Direct link to the PDF.  Make sure to review the footnotes at the bottom of this document.  Last revised November 1st, 2011.  More information can be found in the VDOE School Health Guidelines (located at the bottom of the page).

Nursing Facility Regulations
Contains a line list of guidelines from VDH’s Office of Licensure and Certification.  The Rules and Regulations for the Licensure of Nursing Facilities in Virginia can be found here.

VDSS Assisted Living Facility Regulations
Contains information on regulations, Code of Virginia, application process, guidelines, forms, training and more.

Successful Strategies for Infection Prevention & ControlThis toolkit contains infection prevention presentations, resources, and tools that have been adapted for the assisted living facility (ALF) and nursing home (NH) setting whenever possible. Much of the tools like infection prevention guidance, fact sheets and surveillance logs, however, are generally applicable to other settings.

EPA Registered Disinfectants
Contains listings of EPA registered antimicrobial products that are effective against HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Norovirus, MRSA and more.

FDA Bad Bug Book
Provides basic facts regarding foodborne pathogens and natural toxins

CDC Health Alert Network
Provides recent and archived health alerts, advisories, updates and informational messages regarding vital health information.

Flu Surveillance

Antigenic Drift: What It Means for the Flu Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control released a health advisory alert about the potential spread of drifted A Influenza (H3N2) viruses. The full report is available online here: http://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00374.asp. In summary, influenza virus typing data shows that 48% of the influenza A (H3N2) viruses collected and analyzed in the United States from October 1 through November 22, 2014 were antigenically "like" the 2014-2015 influenza A (H3N2) component that is in the vaccine. Which also means that 52% were antigenically different (drifted) from the H3N2 vaccine virus.

What It Means

Based on the data collected in October through November, the majority of influenza A type virus strains that are currently circulating are not similar to the influenza A virus component in this years vaccine. In past seasons where the predominant circulating influenza viruses have been antigenically drifted (not similar), lower vaccine effectiveness has been observed. However, vaccination has been found to provide some protection against drifted viruses. Additionally, vaccination will still offer protection against circulating influenza strains that have not drifted from the vaccine virus components (such as influenza A (H1N1) and B viruses).

Should I Still Get the Flu Vaccination?

Yes, getting vaccinated will still offer protection against influenza A (H1N1), influenza B viruses, and against non-drifted influenza A (H3N2) strains.

Should I See My Doctor if I Think I Have the Flu?

Since vaccine effectiveness may be lower this year, it is important for people who develop flu-like illness and are at high risk for severe complications should seek prompt medical care. Your doctor may need to prescribe an antiviral medication. Those at high risk for severe complications include: immunocompromised, hospitalized, eld erly, nursing home residents, pregnant or postpartum women, American Indian/Native American. Click here for more information about who is at risk for severe complications from flu.

Flu Surveillance

The Health District works with physician offices, hospitals and laboratories to monitor influenza activity within Crater. To view the current flu activity trend within the District, please click here.

The weekly report of statewide influenza activity and strain surveillance can be found here.

Tis the Season...for Norovirus

The Department of Health regularly monitors data on healthcare visits for gastrointestinal (GI) illness. Data analyses have shown a strong relationship between GI illness activity and norovirus outbreaks - when GI illness activity goes above a threshold level, increased reports of norovirus outbreaks tend to follow. 

As of the week ending November 22nd, the threshold was surpassed, with 11.1% of ED/urgent care visits being due to GI illness. In reviewing outbreak report data, nine outbreaks were suspected or confirmed to be due to norovirus in November, compared to two in October. We have observed an increase in norovirus activity within the state, though none reported in the Crater Health District to date.

Why is norovirus prevention important?
Norovirus is the leading cause of gastrointestinal illness and of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis), leading you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up. Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Over 80% of outbreaks occur between November and April. As we enter “norovirus season,” remember that good hand hygiene and routine cleaning of high-touch surfaces are key to preventing the spread of norovirus. Click here for more tips on norovirus prevention.

Please include this widget after the story (widget pulled from CDC norovirus webpage):


Last Updated: 12-11-2014

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