Going Beyond Ebola, MERS and Zika to Protect Public Health

by Christine Hockett, Senior Epidemiologist, Consilience Software, A Xerox Company

Although Ebola, MERS and Zika are the diseases we read about most in the news lately, local and state health departments are tasked with detecting, monitoring and analyzing many more. Hundreds of diseases and viruses like STDs, HIV, influenza, measles and tuberculosis impact the health of citizens and must be watched, tracked and studied. Even cases of food poisoning or foodborne outbreaks are part of a health department’s purview to track and analyze in an effort to contain an illness and protect public health.

That’s why conferences like the upcoming Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) in Anchorage, Alaska, are so important to maintaining an effective detection and response to disease outbreaks. It is the largest annual gathering of applied epidemiologists in the nation and offers a way for state and local health officials to stay informed, share the most important issues facing modern public health and discuss solutions.

At CSTE we’re hosting a panel presentation and discussion to talk about the tools available to help health departments quickly identify outbreaks and execute a follow-up response efficiently and effectively. Through examples and stories of lessons learned, epidemiologists from state health departments will provide an overview of the practical methods they used to alert, manage and report a variety of outbreaks within their Maven case management solution.

Presenters will cover the following:

  • Methods used by public health departments for outbreak alerts and management
  • Strengths and limitations of implementing different approaches
  • Best practices for outbreak alerts and management

For example, representatives from the South Dakota Department of Health (SDDOH) will be discussing how they managed a suspected norovirus outbreak at an RV park campground and resort. The SDDOH will go into detail about how they used web-enabled technology paired with integrated data systems to assist in the outbreak detection, investigation and response efforts.

Another case study being examined is from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). MDPH representatives will talk about how they utilized their Maven solution to manage a measles outbreak specifically discussing the use of import rosters for contact management; dynamic question packages for the collection of expanded outbreak variables; and adhoc reports for the coordination of contact investigations.

Attendees will have an opportunity to exchange information and share how they have approached decisions in implementing the Outbreak Management model within their Maven solution. Through open discussion, participants will learn about methodologies and useful tools for enhancing outbreak alerts and management processes in their own jurisdiction. And since the technology is scalable and can be quickly and easily configured to changing policies/protocols, technologies, and new emerging diseases, implementing many of the approaches shared is a possibility.

If you’re attending CSTE please join us at our panel discussion on Tuesday, June 21 at 5:45p.m. and drop me a line at christine.hockett@xerox.com, I’d love to meet up! If you can’t make it to Anchorage this year, stay tuned for another update after the conference when we review some of the best practices shared by our presenters.

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