An unusual case comes into your practice, clinic or ER, a few days later another, the next day three more. Are you looking at an infectious disease outbreak? Should you check with your local or state board for similar cases? Where you live could play a big part in how much information and help you have available.
A group called Trust for America’s Health has ranked each state by its preparedness for an infectious disease outbreak with New Hampshire at the top and New Jersey, Nebraska, and Georgia tied for last place. On a scale from one (least ready) to 10 (most ready), 33 states scored a five or lower. The rankings are based on public health funding, lab capabilities for tracking, and the number of vaccines for preventable diseases each state dispenses.
There are reasons behind the concern.
- Not all states and municipalities stay up to date on antibiograms mentioned yesterday by infectious disease expert, James Wilson, M.D. Lack of data may mean physicians are prescribing ineffective medication.
- In the past year only about half of the states’ public health labs looked at the programs they have in place for effectiveness. Some might not have done enough to respond quickly to an outbreak.
- States and municipalities might not be able to respond quickly to emerging diseases coming into the United States such as the Chikungunya virus possibly coming into our southern states via the Caribbean.
- Additional training for health care practitioners and physicians to more quickly spot an outbreak when they first appear. Regional containment can go a long way to stopping an outbreak.
As it turns out, we can predict with some accuracy the path infectious diseases take. Dr. Wilson’s research facility, the National Infectious Disease Forecasting Center tracks over 200 diseases and can predict how they will spread and how this affects population and business activity.
This winter on Sermo, our physicians were early to sound the alarm on the H1N1 virus tracking through the influenza season, alerting their peers around the country of what they were seeing in their region. This informal communication system was effective in getting the word out, and physicians saw vaccinations increase when they started sharing the virus information with their patients.
As a physician have you had problems accessing information about infectious disease in your area? How did you overcome any roadblocks? We will be discussing this in detail inside Sermo, if you’re an M.D. or D.O. please join us.