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Reportable diseases

Definition

Reportable diseases are diseases considered to be of great public health importance. Local, state, and national agencies (for example, county and state health departments or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) require that such diseases be reported when they are diagnosed by doctors or laboratories.

Reporting allows for the collection of statistics that show how often the disease occurs. This, in turn, helps researchers identify disease trends and track disease outbreaks. This can help control future outbreaks.

Alternative Names

Notifiable diseases

Information

All states have a "reportable diseases" list. It is the responsibility of the health care provider, not the patient, to report cases of these diseases. Many of the diseases on the lists must also be reported to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control (CDC).

Reportable diseases are divided into several groups:

  • Mandatory written reporting: This means a report of the disease must be made in writing. Examples are gonorrhea and salmonellosis.
  • Mandatory reporting by telephone: This means the health care provider must make a report by phone. Examples are rubeola (measles) and pertussis (whooping cough).
  • Report of total number of cases: Examples are chickenpox and influenza.
  • Cancer: Cancer cases are reported to the state Cancer Registry.

A typical state list may appear as follows. Diseases marked with an asterisk (*) were reportable to the CDC at the national level in 2006:

The state health department will attempt to find the source of many of these illnesses, such as food poisoning or amebiasis. In the case of sexually-transmitted diseases (STD) the state will attempt to locate sexual contacts to assure they are disease-free or are appropriately treated if they are already infected.

The information obtained by reporting allows the state to make informed decisions and laws concerning activities and the environment such as food handling, water purification, insect control, animal control, STD tracking, and immunization programs.

Please remember that the health care provider is bound by law to report these events. People with any of the diseases listed in the state's reporting schedule should make every effort to cooperate with the state health workers. Cooperation may help locate the source of an infection or prevent the spread of an epidemic.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Update to Summary of Notifiable Diseases -- United States. MMMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2008;55(53):1-94.

Review Date: 5/30/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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