Infectious diseases - investigation
Notifications of diagnoses and treatment of infectious diseases such as food poisoning are received from GPs, The Heath Protection Agency (HPA), the public, businesses and other local authorities.
Infectious diseases are caused by disease producing microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Infectious diseases can be spread directly, for example through physical contact between an infected person and a susceptible, or indirectly for example where a person is infected from contact with a contaminated surface. Zoonotic diseases are infectious animal diseases that can be to transmitted humans.
Infectious diseases remain a major threat to global animal and human heath. Present-day examples include the 2002 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in the UK, the 2003 global epidemic of SARS and the recent threat of a Swine flu pandemic.
Doctors in England and Wales have a legal duty to notify a 'Proper Officer' of the Local Authority of suspected cases of certain infectious diseases or food poisoning. This is so that any possible outbreaks or epidemics are quickly identified.
For further information on these infectious diseases and others not covered by Environmental Health, please visit the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
The role of Environmental Health
Environmental Health Officers are responsible for investigating all suspected food or water borne infectious disease incidents.
These include Campylobacter, Giardia, Salmonella, E.Coli and Cryptosporidium.
If the infected person is a Food Handler they pose a greater risk of spreading the disease further and it is the Environmental Health Officers aim to minimise this, similarly if the infected person has contracted the disease by coming into contact with an infected person or having consumed food which has been contaminated this also needs to be ascertained.
In order to find out the possible cause and to enable Officers to act effectively a questionnaire is sent to the person infected to try and find out what food has been consumed and where it was eaten or purchased.