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Communicable Disease

A Dictionary of Epidemiology defines communicable disease as "illness due to a specific infectious agent or its toxic products that arises through transmission of that agent or its products from an infected person, animal, or reservoir to a susceptible host, either directly or indirectly through an intermediate plant or animal host, vector, or the inanimate environment." Communicable disease pathogens include bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and prions.

Because communicable diseases can have so much impact on the population, the surveillance and control of such diseases is an important part of protecting the public's health. The Communicable Disease Branch of the Division of Public Health primarily deals with infectious diseases that are reportable by law External link to the state health department, as well as a few other communicable diseases of public health significance, such as influenza, norovirus infection and certain healthcare-associated infections.

Other Communicable Disease Branch functions include:

  • Ongoing information and education for the public, healthcare providers and local health departments on communicable diseases and how to prevent them.
  • Alerts and timely information about emerging or seasonal communicable disease events, such as flu, food-borne illness, or the occurrence of a new (novel) communicable disease.
  • Routine surveillance and quality assurance of disease reporting by physicians, hospitals and laboratories to detect trends and assess the public health impact of disease.
  • Investigation of and intervention in response to disease outbreaks, as well as the ongoing development of strategies, policies, and practices to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Training in disease surveillance, reporting criteria, data quality, investigation and control for local health departments.
  • Management of veterinary public health issues, such as control and prevention of rabies and other diseases of animal origin that can affect humans.
  • Outpatient care and support services related to HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis.
  • Communication sharing between local, state and federal public health agencies, private physicians, and hospital and occupational infection control personnel, as an essential part of disease surveillance and control efforts.
  • Consultations on community health problems.