Epidemiology: Identifying the Potential Spread of Infections

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Describe how epidemiology can be used to identify the potential spread of infections

Awareness on infectious disease has been given importance for a very long time, even well before human kind had knowledge of micro-organism and its habitat. Related procedures, such as isolation were recognised and have been proved to be safe and good methods in reducing the spread of infectious disease.

The concept of epidemiology was first recognised at the time of Hippocrates but its base originated late in 19th century from investigations of outbreaks of infectious disease such as plague, cholera and smallpox (Stolley, 1994). John Snow contributed in building a formal concept of epidemiology, based on his investigations which had emerged from a range of theories which nowadays are being used by modern epidemiologists (MacMahon&Trichopoulos, 1996). Happily, these investigations have raised awareness among the population and authorities for developing and improving certain standards in social conditions, which can lead to a reduction in disease incidence (Valanis, 1999)

Although epidemiological studies have made a relevant contribution to public health in the last decades, many people do not know what epidemiology is and how it contributes to our society. This remains an issue, which affects the lives of most of the people.

Epidemiology is defined as a “branch of medical science that deals with the incidence, distribution, and control of a disease in a population” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2007). Epidemiology is a discipline, which relies mostly on quantitative studies (Valarnis,1999) focussed in measuring the disease from onset to resolution and analyzing the pattern of occurrence in individuals or groups including any deviations/ causes which can bring about an alteration of health.

There are many organisations worldwide, which monitor and investigate disease outbreaks. In England and Wales, the Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections monitors such outbreaks and its function is “to protect the community (or any part of the community) against infectious disease and other dangers to health (HPA Act, 2004).

The progress made in understanding the link between the micro-organism and human disease pushed the epidemiologists to focus mostly on promoting and improving the health of the population and in controlling infectious diseases (Wilson, 2008).

Epidemiologists therefore are often called to investigate clusters of disease in specific geographical areas, where an outbreak has occurred. Such an example is E.Coli o104 outbreak all over Europe which occurred at the beginning of May 2011. There was a dispute with regard to the source and the transmission of the infection and which lead to several political arguments.

The Health Protection Agency and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control investigated the source and cause of the spread of the bacteria. This type of outbreak was uncommon for European authorities since the bacteria was of a rare strain, but the findings of the HPA and ECDPD has provided sufficient information to the population regarding the risks and involved the necessary actions to be taken to prevent spread of the infections. Examination of the pattern of this infectious disease has identified unusual characteristics, the type of the population affected (mostly adults and very rarely children or elderly), and demographic factors which were important to show the exposure to risk of illness (HPA, 2011).

The observations recorded from the description of the disease can provide measures of the disease frequency, which were helpful in estimating the number of people affected and to what extent the disease, could spread (Valanis, 1999).The data is analysed and validated through a system records and then compared to other similar outbreaks(Beaglehole,1993).

The constant surveillance is an ongoing system used to monitor...
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