Notifiable Disease and Emergency
Notifiable Disease Reporting - A Crucial Part of Public Health
by Tiffany Gober, MPH, District 2 Public Health Epidemiologist
All Georgia physicians, laboratories, and other health care providers are required by law (O.C.G.A. §31-12-2. and O.C.G.A. §31-22-7) to report patients with conditions classified as reportable. Both lab-confirmed and clinical diagnoses are reportable within the time interval specified. Reporting enables appropriate public health follow-up for patients, helps identify outbreaks, and provides a better understanding of disease trends in Georgia. For the latest information from the Georgia Department of Public Health, visit their website at: www.health.state.ga.us.
It is through the help of the community, specifically family physicians, hospitals and local health departments, that Public Health is able to accurately assess what diseases are present within the community.
Georgia is a dual reporting state. That means that both laboratories as well as providers are responsible for reporting any positive communicable disease lab results among their patients. This reporting is done predominantly through reporting via telephone, fax, mail, and/or electronic upload. Any physician can have access to SendSS (State Electronic Notifiable Disease Surveillance System) if electronic reporting is the preferred method.
The Georgia Notifiable Disease-Condition Report Form can be completed and returned to the local health department or directly to the District Epidemiologist at the district office. To find your district office visit: http://health.state.ga.us/regional/index.asp. The report form is utilized to report any of the mandated notifiable diseases that are listed on the Notifiable Disease report poster. This poster, along with the reporting form, can be located at http://www.health.state.ga.us/epi/disease/report.asp or by contacting your District Public Health Epidemiologist. There are also available Notifiable Disease forms, if you prefer, for your office.
Once the Notifiable Disease Report form is received by Public Health, an epidemiologist will follow up on those cases that require further review, identification and possible treatment for contacts of the infected patient, or other intervention. For instance, if a report of E. coli 0157:H7 is received, the epidemiologist will investigate to identify the probable source of the infection and determine whether other people might be at risk from a common exposure. Environmental Health personnel may be involved if the source is suspected to be contaminated food.
The Department of Public Health wants to make this process as effective and straightforward as possible, and appreciates any relevant feedback. You may contact your District Epidemiologist through your local Health Department with any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding the reporting of Notifiable Diseases. By working together, Public Health and private providers - family physicians - can reach the goal of 100 percent reporting of these diseases.
August 10, 2012 - Update on Influenza A - H3N2 in Georgia
On August 10, 2012 the CDC released key points regarding Influenza A (H3N2) variant virus, also known as H3N2v. GAFP also received documents from the Georgia Department of Public Health regarding the submission of suspect H3N2 specimens to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory. Below is a highlight of CDC's key points:
- Influenza A (H3N2) viruses with genes from avian, swine and human viruses that normally circulate in swine can sometimes infect humans.
- Most human infections have occurred following swine contact. While limited human-to-human transmission of H3N2v virus is thought to have occurred on three occasions in the fall and winter of 2011, sustained and efficient community transmission of H3N2v virus has not been detected to date.
- According to USDA swine influenza surveillance, this swine H3N2 virus with the pandemic M gene has been detected in swine in a number of U.S. states. This virus may be circulating widely in U.S. swine at this time.
- Right now, a large number of agricultural fairs are ongoing around the country, and direct exposure of people to infected pigs is thought to be the primary cause of infection, according to investigations conducted so far this year.
- All 153 H3N2v cases have reported swine exposure. Of these 153 H3N2v cases, 152 reported contact while attending or exhibiting swine at an agricultural fair.
- This is not a pandemic situation, but CDC is continuing to monitor H3N2v closely.
- The severity of human illness associated with this virus continues to resemble that of seasonal fl u. Most cases have occurred in children, have been mild and not required treatment, and have resolved on their own.
- Persons with underlying chronic conditions that place them at high risk for serious complications from seasonal influenza should also be considered at high risk for complications from H3N2v infection.
- High risk persons with suspected H3N2v virus infection as well as hospitalized patients with suspected H3N2v, should be treated with antiviral drugs as soon as possible.
- H3N2v virus is sensitive (susceptible) to the available prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir. For additional information, contact Delmar Little, Respiratory Disease Surveillance Coordinator, Georgia Department of Public Health by email email@example.com or phone (404) 463-4625
A Users’ Guide To Georgia’s Public Health Laboratory
Every year, Georgia newspaper headlines report multiple outbreaks of influenza as confirmed by the Georgia Public Health Laboratory (GPHL). While high-profile public health issues such as influenza capture the public’s attention, the vital screening, diagnostic and reference laboratory services provided by the GPHL throughout the year are essential components of Georgia’s overall public health infrastructure.
The Georgia Public Health Laboratory’s principal role is to provide analytical and technical support to continually evolving state and federal public health programs through:
Direct Program Support - including laboratory testing for STD, TB and HIV and for the Stroke and Heart Attack Prevention Program. Sexually transmitted diseases and HIV testing (in addition to newborn screening) produce the GPHL’s largest volume of specimens. Physicians who need HIV submittal forms or who have questions about ordering specimen collection kits can find updated forms and fact sheets on the GPHL’s Web page: http://health.state.ga.us/programs/lab/manual.asp.
Legal Requirements - including mandated newborn metabolic and sickle cell screening. Physicians throughout the state can access screening results with a touch-tone telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week using the Voice Response System (VRS) for the Newborn Screening Program. To ensure confidentiality and security, a state medical license number or a submitter code number is required to access the system, as well as a personal identification number (PIN) assigned at the time of enrollment.
Once registered with the system, screening results for any child born in Georgia
can be accessed using the Social Security number of the infant’s mother.
The newly designed specimen collection form, which includes a space for the
mother’s SSN, is already in circulation. To enroll in the system, go
to http://health.state.ga.us/programs/lab/vrs.asp or call
Epidemiology - helps to monitor reportable diseases by providing notification of positive tests performed in the laboratory for influenza, rabies, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and giardiasis.
Each year, from October to mid-May, Georgia’s Division of Public Health tracks cases of influenza throughout the state with the help of volunteer sentinel physicians. While each individual case of influenza is not reportable to health authorities, influenza activity is monitored by watching the percentage of doctors’ visits for “influenza-like illness” (fever >100 F and cough and/or sore throat). In addition to weekly reporting, these volunteer providers send throat swabs from patients for laboratory testing (virologic confirmation and subtyping).
Based on testing conducted each week at the GPHL, the Georgia Division of Public Health posts information on circulating influenza strains on its Web site at http://health.state.ga.us/epi/flu/strain07.asp. The data is then entered into a database to help determine which strains will be included in next year’s influenza vaccine. All data collected by Georgia sentinel physicians are sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for inclusion in the nationwide network.
Reference Testing - including definitive, complex or new tests on specimens
or referred cultures, principally in bacteriology, mycobacteriology or virology.
Visit http://health.state.ga.us/programs/lab/index.asp to download the Laboratory Services Manual for more information on GPHL services and contact information for managers in each program unit. Because the online version of the Laboratory Services Manual is due to be updated, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 327-7900 if you cannot find the information you need online.