Disease and symptom tracking are critical to the preparedness of Yavapai County Community Health Services (YCCHS) in Arizona.
To this extent, a strong web of communication between local medical providers, other counties and the state health department keeps YCCHS up-to-date on any potential threats.
"We have a number of surveillance tools at our disposal to identify biological threats and outbreaks," Epidemiologist and YCCHS Public Health Emergency Preparedness Unit Manager Stephen Everett told BioPrepWatch during a recent interview. "Our primary source is our communicable disease reporting system. Like other states, we have a number of infectious diseases that medical providers, clinical laboratories and childcare establishments are required by law to report."
Speed is of the essence to stop a health threat before it becomes an epidemic.
"The greater the risk to public health, the faster reporters are required to report," Everett said. "A highly virulent disease like Ebola would have to be reported within 24 hours. The department maintains a 24/7 emergency line in order to receive these calls."
Everett said the department is also beginning to actively utilize BioSense, a program that tracks syndromic data from the emergency departments of hospitals to identify possible deviations that could signal an outbreak.
In addition to tracking disease information, YCCHS stays in touch with key local contacts.
"We work closely with hospitals, providers and local stakeholders to maintain lines of communication open and keep them informed of public health news that may impact Yavapai County," Everett said.
The next level of communication is with other counties throughout Arizona. The state health department also retains contact with other states, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This establishes communication on multiple levels to ensure any information related to a potential threat is spread quickly throughout the state and country.