We often investigate cases of infectious disease. Our aim is to prevent an outbreak or spread of illness and also to try and establish the possible causes.
Our response to occurrences of infectious diseases will depend on the circumstances around each case. Some infectious diseases are subject to statutory notifications and we will contribute to investigations which are run jointly with colleagues from the Health Protection Agency.
We are often required to investigate local issues and may carry out sampling to try and establish possible causes. We will contact affected individuals.
The investigation may involve the completion of a simple questionnaire or a visit from an environmental health officer which will help us to provide responses to inform the ongoing investigations. Advice can be given to a patient on how to prevent the spread of disease within the home.
If the case is suspected to be food poisoning or a food borne illness, we will use our links to local food businesses and expertise in food safety matters to investigate the relevant issues. Additional precautions are often required when the affected person is connected to the food or catering trade. Where there is evidence implicating a particular food premises within our area as a possible source of the outbreak, we may decide to carry out a food hygiene inspection.
More information on the examples of infectious diseases is available through the Health Protection Agency.
Controlling infectious diseases
The current arrangement for notification and surveillance of infectious diseases plays a key part in controlling the impact of these diseases and preventing outbreaks or further spread. This system enables the prompt investigation, risk assessment and response to any cases which may present a significant risk to human health in the general population.
Notifiable diseases are:
- Acute encephalitis
- Acute meningitis
- Acute poliomyelitis
- Acute infectious hepatitis
- Enteric fever (typhoid or paratyphoid fever)
- Food poisoning
- Haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)
- Infectious bloody diarrhoea
- Invasive group A streptococcal disease and scarlet fever
- Legionnaires’ Disease
- Meningococcal septicaemia
- Tetanus Tuberculosis
- Viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF)
- Whooping cough
- Yellow fever
Combating these diseases and protecting health is a main function of the Health Protection Agency. This will also involve contributions and support from a number of other agencies.
The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 makes provisions which require doctors who make a diagnosis (confirmed or suspected) of an infectious disease to notify the Proper Officer of their local authority.
During 2010, a set of new health protection regulations were made under the Act. These modernise the earlier provisions by widening the scope to include infection and contamination of any kind. Updated health protection powers are now available to request or require action to be taken to prevent, protect against or control a significant risk to human health. This will ensure local authorities are able to respond to modern-day health hazards more effectively.