Digging Deeper: infectious diseases - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: infectious diseases

Life-threatening infections could be running through Georgia hospitals without the knowledge of state's Health Department officials.

That's because state law doesn't require hospitals to share the information.

The state is looking at a program to change that.

When cases of Pertussis or whooping cough surfaced in south Georgia last summer, hospitals and doctors were helpful in alerting the Southwest Georgia Public Health Department to the outbreak.

"We're very fortunate to have a very good relationship with the hospitals in our region that they report to us very promptly," said Jacqueline Jenkins, Southwest Georgia Health District Epidemiologist.

Digging deeper we found the state has a list of 78 different diseases hospitals are required to report. On the immediate list, diseases like Anthrax, Animal Bites, E.coli, and Plague, on the report in 7 days list, AIDS/HIV, Influenza deaths, Mumps and Malaria.

"Usually through their infection control practitioner they alert us with any patient that tests positive for anything on our list of 78 diseases," said Jenkins.

But most of the infections patients pick up once they're inside hospital walls do not have to be reported, despite the danger to public health.

"Acquired Hospital infections are not mandated to be reported to public health in our state right now," said Jenkins.

The state Department of Public Health is using a federal grant to create a program to combat infections picked up inside hospitals walls and with that a system for tracking it. Public Health officials say if the public is aware of a problem they can report it and it will be investigated.

"If there was an issue going on and it was reported to us, we would investigate that," said Jenkins.

Health officials say ultimately the quicker they know about an outbreak of an illness the quicker they can alert the public and try to mitigate the issue before more outbreaks occur. Ultimately keeping a community healthier.

The federal government is also working on a national tracking program that could eventually provide public data to states.

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