By Leondria Taty, MSN, FNP-C
Every state has a reportable disease list, and health care providers including nurse practitioners are required by law to report these diseases. Yes, that’s right by law. That’s because when these diseases are not reported, delayed, or incomplete, new incidences of the disease can occur and spread in your community. Here’s how it works and why it’s important.
Say that you see a patient that you suspect has a condition on your state’s reportable disease list. Think syphilis, measles, pertussis, or some weird mutant virus that could spark the next zombie apocalypse…you catch my drift. You, or a designated person where you work reports the information to your local state health department. Public health uses the information that you report to monitor, control, and prevent the development and spread of the notifiable infection or noninfectious disease in your community. From there, your local or state public health department will determine if the reportable disease is nationally notifiable. If it is, that information is immediately delivered to the big guns. Yes you guessed it – the CDC.
As a nurse practitioner, you play a fundamental role in supporting public health surveillance by reporting notifiable disease-related health information. You might be the initial provider to interact with patient’s seeking care for an acute illness. Therefore, the likelihood that you could potentially encounter one of the reportable diseases is high. Your community depends on you to recognize and report these notifiable diseases to your local or state public health department upon initial clinical suspicion.
Some of these diseases must be reported in writing, telephone, or via a registry. And each reported disease is time-sensitive (ie: report immediately, within 7 days, within 30 days, etc.). The method of reporting and the time frame in which to report the disease is included on your state’s reportable disease list. All of the resources needed to make the report are clearly indicated for each disease, usually in the form of a legend. The provided resources include the telephone number to call, the form used to document the report, the number to fax a written report, or the website link to register the disease. The way the notifiable disease list looks varies from state to state, but the concept is the exact same.
Take for instance the 2017 List of Reportable Diseases in Tennessee. If you’re a provider in Tennessee and see a patient that you suspect has the measles, you would immediately refer to the notifiable disease list provided by the Tennessee Department of Health. From there you will look for measles, which is a listed notifiable disease. Per the provided legend, you will see the instructions for reporting measles, which must be reported via telephone within 1 week. The number to call is listed for the convenience and ease of the person making the report. The same applies for any of the notifiable diseases for any state.
I would suggest bookmarking the website of your state’s health department, saving a copy, or printing the list of notifiable diseases for quick reference.
You can check the local laws on mandatory reporting by visiting the website of your state’s public health department. There you will also find the list of state-specific notifiable diseases to report. The CDC also has a list of the notifiable conditions.
Here’s a peek of 9 diseases from the list that require mandatory reporting:
- Hepatitis (acute A, B, and C; chronic B and C)
- Elevated blood lead levels
- Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Lyme disease
- Chlamydia trachomatis infection
Are you reporting these diseases?
About the Author: Leondria Taty is an advanced practice registered nurse with board certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner and as a Holistic Nurse. Her clinical experience is in public health. Leondria also works as an adjunct clinical faculty member at the University of South Alabama.
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