Communicable Disease Control

A Renewed Approach

Communicable Disease Control Programs:

In 2001, the health department approached the problem of communicable diseases with enhanced electronic technology to capture emerging and other notifiable diseases

To more effectively track reportable diseases, a statewide sophisticated system of data collection and analysis called CDRS (Communicable Disease Reporting System) was developed by the N.J. State Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS).

The new reportable disease database will facilitate real-time reporting, improved data analysis, follow-up, resource allocation and program planning on a countywide basis. The CDRS creates an interdisciplinary departmental approach to disease identification, analysis, and containment. Staff from the offices of Nursing, Planning and Consumer Health can access CDRS data to collaborate on disease prevention activities with a broader public health perspective.

The ability to identify disease patterns and trends in the population will lead to a more timely response to immediate and long-term health threats and, ultimately, safeguard and improve the health of Bergen County residents.

To help curb the spread of communicable diseases, prevention messages are key and apply to a spectrum of transmittable diseases, which may be spread from person to person or through a vector. Some communicable diseases are foodborne, such as salmonella and giardia lamblia. In 2000, the department organized a team of public health professionals to investigate foodborne outbreaks. The team meets when foodborne illness is detected to identify the source and treatment for any residents that may be affected.

The food handlers’ course covering safe food handling practices had been presented in English since 1992. In 2000, the course was presented in Spanish, Chinese, Italian and Korean. Courses in Arabic, Japanese and Turkish were added in 2001. More details on foodborne disease prevention appear in the Environmental section under Consumer Health Program.

The Communicable Disease Control Program, organized under the Office of Public Health Nursing, is a countywide protection service that works directly with the state, hospitals, and laboratories to respond to communicable diseases that occur in Bergen County. Examples of these are TBHIV/AIDS, rabies and hepatitis B. Rabies Control efforts are reported under Animal Control, and Hepatitis B Prevention efforts appear in the section on Occupational Health.

As required by law, in 2001 the program reported 638 communicable diseases to the NJDHSS. This reflects a seven percent increase over 2000, resulting from an improved reporting system. A total of 507 cases were investigated directly by the department, and 131 were forwarded to municipal nurses for follow-up activities. The most frequent reportable diseases were hepatitis C and B, Lyme disease, followed by intestinal diseases, such as salmonella and giardiasis.

Public health nurses staff the program and serve as case managers. For example, the adult at-risk and the newly diagnosed adult with HIV or TB will be counseled and referred to services. Staff also participate in the public health nursing response team, which is actively involved in prevention programs, surveillance, reportable disease follow-up, immunizations, screenings, case finding and directly observed therapy for TB.