Infectious Disease Team
What We Do
Infectious diseases can affect any of us, from new strains of flu to Salmonella. Health care providers and public health professionals have the same core mission: protect people's health! In order to truly achieve that mission, we work together. By law, the infectious disease team at the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control (BIDC) relies on clinicians to report certain diseases, unusual occurrences, or outbreaks in order to identify and control potential health threats to the public. Working closely with health care providers, the infectious disease team collects information about risk factors, symptoms, and outcomes to help understand the impact and burden of communicable disease. With that information, actions are taken to stop disease transmission.
What We're Watching
Here at the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, we are monitoring global emerging respiratory viruses and novel influenza viruses. To date, they have not been shown to spread in a sustainable way between humans. Because these viruses are constantly evolving over time and could eventually acquire traits that may allow them to spread more easily through human populations, it is important to track their activity and patterns of circulation and transmission.
BIDC follows the activity of such emerging respiratory viruses. Particular attention is given to tracking the number of reported human cases and the geographic extent of where the viruses are circulating. Summary reports which provide a brief and broad overview of activity are compiled by BIDC on a weekly basis.
Currently we are watching:
- Zika Virus
Zika virus was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda in 1947 and then in mosquitoes in 1948, but only since 2007 has it begun to spread rapidly among people beyond tropical Africa and Southeast through mosquito bites. Outbreaks of Zika have also occurred in the Pacific Islands and South and Central America. Because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will continue to spread to new countries. In December 2015, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed Zika virus case. Locally transmitted Zika has not been reported elsewhere in the United States, but cases of Zika have been reported in returning travelers.
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Brazil is currently experiencing a large outbreak and has seen a huge increase in cases of microcephaly in babies, a birth defect characterized by small head circumference and brain abnormality, believed to be a result of the mothers becoming infected with the virus in the first or second trimester of pregnancy.
There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Travelers can protect themselves from this disease by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites. When traveling to countries where Zika virus (see map) or other viruses spread by mosquitoes have been reported, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens. BIDC issued a Health Alert on Zika January 20, 2016.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) is a respiratory illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a type of virus called a coronavirus and named MERS-CoV. The first case of MERS-CoV infection in the United States was confirmed on May 2, 2014, and as a result, BIDC disseminated a Health Alert on May 14, 2014. A second imported MERS-CoV was confirmed on May 11th.
- Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5 Outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support the response to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 viruses affecting bird populations in parts of the United States. Despite aggressive control measures, the number of affected states has increased since outbreaks began in December 2014. In response to these outbreaks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is expanding its guidance on the use of influenza antiviral drugs stockpiled for the purpose of pandemic influenza.
Influenza Activity Influenza is not a reportable disease in New Hampshire, but surveillance systems are in place to help determine the extent of illness and current circulating virus types. During the traditional influenza season (beginning of October through mid-May), Weekly Influenza Surveillance Reports are published.
Don't forget to get a flu vaccine to prevent flu and the complications that flu illness can bring. Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to receive the influenza vaccine every year. Learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from the flu.
The infectious disease team is trained to respond to disease outbreaks. An outbreak is when there are more cases of a disease than normally expected within a specific group of people over a given period of time. Not all reports of possible outbreaks are determined to be outbreaks, but investigation is necessary to understand and ultimately control and prevent the spread of disease. Outbreak investigation is particularly important when the disease in question is severe or has a high rate of transmission. BIDC actively conducts investigations of outbreaks, most commonly respiratory and gastrointestinal illness related.
BIDC team members are trained to respond immediately to any potential or actual threat. Once activated, an Incident Command System is used to structure and organize needed resources to conduct a response. Recent responses include Hepatitis A clinics in Summer 2013 and second vaccine dose clinics April 2014. The BIDC team works collaboratively with the Emergency Services Unit on public health emergency events.
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