Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. In short, it is trying to figure out why certain people are getting ill. At Lake Cumberland District Health Department(LCDHD), the Epidemiologist works to help prevent and control infectious diseases.
The Epidemiologist investigates reportable diseases and outbreaks. There are certain diseases and viruses that due to their infectious nature and the risks they pose to others, are mandated under the Kentucky law to be reported to public health. Physicians and hospitals report these diseases to the health department. The Epidemiologist, along with reportable disease nurses provide investigation of the cases and report the communicable diseases to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, which reports to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some examples of reportable diseases are pertussis, salmonella, and Lyme disease.
The Epidemiologist leads the LCDHD Infection Control Committee. This committee is comprised of LCDHD Medical Director, Preparedness Director, Nursing Director, Environmental Director, QI Coordinator, local nurses, and local environmentalists. This committee discuss current outbreaks, increase of certain reportable diseases, clinic updates, environmental activities, as well as preparedness plans.
The Epidemiologist is also responsible for statistics and health data. In Lake Cumberland, the Epidemiologist leads the LCDHD Data Analysis Committee. This committee reviews trend data and determines areas in Lake Cumberland where disease or poor health status stands out when compared to state and national data. Once target areas are identified, recommendations are made to the LCDHD Executive and Quality Improvement Committee, where sub-committees are identified and tasked with the objective of developing action plans to address problem areas.
The Epidemiologist works alongside with the Epi Rapid Response Team (ERRT) during outbreaks. This team is comprised of nurses, environmentalists, Epidemiologist, Preparedness Director, and the Medical Director. This team have advanced training in epidemiologic techniques such as: surveillance, investigation, and reporting. These individuals are prepared to respond during a disease outbreak. The team has responded to numerous disease reports and outbreaks over the years and have successfully mitigated their spread further in the population.
The Epidemiologist provides consultation and support to health departments, hospitals, and healthcare providers within the Lake Cumberland District. They work closely with these entities to help prevent and control infectious diseases in the population.