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For communicable disease control efforts to be maximally effective, health care providers should take time to advise their patients about the legal requirement of disease reporting, what the patient can expect to happen, and how the community may benefit. Patients who are surprised when they receive a phone call from the local health department about their illness may be less than fully cooperative with the health department and are often unhappy that their health care provider didn’t advise them that they might receive a call from someone at the health department. Instead of viewing this as a referral for health care follow-up, patients may view it as a breach of confidentiality because they weren’t provided the opportunity to understand what is happening and why.
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All immediately reportable diseases should be reported to the Gloucester County Department of Health at 856-218-4102. To reach a public health official in the evening or weekend call the Gloucester County Communications center at 856-589-0911. If the patient does not live in Gloucester County the report should be called into their local health department or New Jersey Department of Health at 609-826-5964 during regular business hours, and 609-392-2020 on nights, weekends, and holidays. For diseases that must be reported within 24 hours of diagnosis, call the Gloucester County Department of Health or fax a report to: 856-218-4145.
The earlier illnesses are reported, the faster public health authorities can act. Timely investigations are needed to immediately enact prevention and control measures. Such measures may include embargoes of food products, prophylaxis of patient contacts, and closure of public swimming places.
In addition to the name of the disease and the name of the patient, regulations require reporting of the patient’s:
View the Communicable Disease Reporting Forms (CDS-1).
The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits covered entities (i.e., health care providers, laboratories, and hospitals) to disclose protected health information, without authorization, to public health authorities who are legally authorized to receive such reports for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability. Examples of public health authorities include the state and local health departments in New Jersey and the Centers for Disease Control.
Reports are used to trigger the prompt implementation of disease control and prevention measures. When reports are compiled and analyzed, they provide public health authorities with important information about a disease, including trends, risk factors, and whether existing disease prevention activities are working.
The health care provider will be the first person to make the diagnosis or be the first health care professional to suspect that the illness is occurring. They often possess clinical information that the laboratory doesn’t have -information that often is critical for public health authorities to perform their duties in a timely and efficient fashion.
Health care providers will be asked to provide clinical or diagnostic information regarding a patient. They also may be asked to collect additional clinical specimens to confirm the diagnosis of cases and to participate in prevention activities, including administering vaccines and prophylactic antibiotics.