Submitted by Thurston County

We are celebrating National Public Health Week this week by sharing more about the work Thurston County Public Health & Social Services (PHSS) staff do as a part of local public health work. Today, we are focusing on the work of our Disease Investigation Program. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you have probably heard about some of the work local public health employees do.

The Communicable Disease team, comprised of public health nurses, epidemiologists, and support staff, at PHSS is a part of the Disease Control and Prevention Division.

Photo courtesy: Thurston County

The Communicable Disease team:

  • Monitors infectious diseases in the county.
  • Investigates and follow-up reported cases of disease.
  • Identifies other people who may have been exposed (contacts) and put prevention and intervention activities in place to limit the spread of the disease.
  • Reports and attempts to identify the source of a disease and how many people may have been exposed to it.

To do this, they interview health care providers, patients, contacts of patients, ask for lab samples, ask (or sometimes require) people stay home from work or school, and recommend medicines and vaccines.

They work closely with health care providers and laboratories to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on the type of disease, they may also coordinate their efforts with other parts of our department. For example, they work with Environmental Health to investigate complaints related to food that may have caused illness. They do this work day in and day out.

The Communicable Disease teams work has been very important during the COVID-19 response and they have been working very hard responding to cases for months. Public Health activated the Public Health’s Emergency Response Incident Management Team in early February. They have been working days, nights, and weekends to identify, investigate, and follow-up with cases and their contacts. Their work is now being supported by different employees and volunteers from several departments within the county, the Thurston County Medical Reserve Corps, community public health partners, and state and federal partners.

One of the most crucial ways that the community can help control the spread of disease is by following the stay at home advice:

  • Stay at home, unless you need to make an essential trip for groceries or other needed supplies.
  • When you must go out stay at least six feet away from people.
  • Do not hang out with people you do not live with.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Keep your hands away from your nose, eyes and mouth.

Educating yourself with reliable, accurate information is key. The PHSS webpage is one place you can find updated local information. Other places to find information include the Washington State Department of Health’s website, the Governor’s website and the CDC website.

Our public health team is working hard to do their part during this difficult time to stop the spread of this virus. We appreciate the work and support of the community during this time, thank you for what you are doing, it is making a difference!

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