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Communicable Disease

The main objectives for Catawba County Public Health's Communicable Disease staff, under the direction of and in collaboration with the NC General Communicable Disease Control Branch, are:

  • To promptly investigate disease outbreaks and unusual situations, and to implement control measures to minimize further transmission of disease
  • To monitor disease reporting by physicians and laboratories in order to detect trends
  • To provide a channel of communication between Catawba County Public Health, private physicians, and hospital and occupational infection control personnel, as an essential part of disease control efforts
  • To explain public health interventions and disseminate health education messages to the community in order to enhance disease control efforts.

There are 96 different diseases mandated by law as reportable to the State of NC Communicable Disease Branch. These diseases include foodborne, airborne, blood borne, waterborne or vector borne (e.g., insect bites). In addition to legally reportable diseases, Catawba County Communicable Disease nurses assist with other public health concerns such as MRSA, lice, dog bites, and others to ensure the affected persons and their contacts are receiving proper health care.

Health care providers should report communicable diseases using the Reporting Form for Health Care Providers. Some diseases must be reported within 24 hours, while others have as many as 7 days to report. Questions and referrals can be sent to our Communicable Disease staff.

For more information on communicable diseases in North Carolina, please visit the North Carolina Communicable Disease Branch.

A goal of Catawba County Public Health is to control the human risk of exposure and offer prophylaxis to people who have potentially been exposed to the deadly rabies virus, which attacks the nervous system of its victims.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a communicable, potentially deadly disease that usually affects the lungs but can attack other parts of the body as well. It is spread when a person with an active case of TB breathes out disease-causing bacteria, which are then inhaled by another person. TB is treatable and usually curable, although new drug-resistant strains are appearing that are very difficult to treat. It is vital that TB patients faithfully follow their treatment regimen and take all medications as directed, for as long as directed, or the disease can recur in a drug-resistant form.

Catawba County Public Health providesTB skin tests and risk assessments, chest X-rays, and preventive medication therapy.

The Communicable Disease team supports providers by answering questions regarding the administration and interpretation of tests. Medical providers who interpret a test as potentially positive should refer the patient to Catawba County Public Health for follow up.

Questions and referrals can be sent to our Communicable Disease nurses. For more information, visit the North Carolina Epidemiology page.

Seasonal influenza is an illness that can cause serious health complications, including pneumonia and death. The best defense against the flu is vaccination. Each year, Catawba County Public Health offers a Flu Blitz (a walk-in flu shot clinic held over the course of one or two days), as well as appointments in our immunization clinic for flu shots.

For information about the flu shot, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s flu shot page. For more information on the flu and this year’s flu season, go to the CDC’s flu page. The CDC also has a guide for schools and childcare providers, information for parents with young children, and resources for healthcare professionals.

For more information on this year’s seasonal flu vaccine or to schedule a flu shot, call (828) 695-5881.

Hepatitis C infects around 30,000 new people a year, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 3.2 million people living with a chronic Hepatitis C infection. While anyone can get hepatitis C, three in four people with Hepatitis C are Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965. Fortunately, Catawba County is working to address Hepatitis C, which can have lasting health effects if left untreated.

Today, Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through sharing of contaminated drug injection equipment but can also be spread through sexual contact, birth by an infected mother, and needle stick injuries among healthcare workers. Baby Boomers may have contracted Hepatitis C through blood transfusions, unsafe injection practices and unclean medical equipment before modern infection control practices were adopted.

Up to 85 percent of infected people develop chronic infections, with permanent liver damage present in two out of three people and cirrhosis in one in five people. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

Because Hepatitis C is an issue of concern in Catawba County, a multidisciplinary group is working to increase awareness of the disease, increase screening and testing for Hepatitis C, and coordinate treatment among health care providers. The group includes representatives from Catawba County Public Health and other health agencies around the county.

Because testing and treatment can be cost-prohibitive, a number of groups are offering free or reduced-cost services:

  • ALFA, known for providing free, rapid HIV tests, is now providing rapid Hepatitis C tests.
  • Catawba Family Care provides testing, treatment and primary care for Hepatitis C patients in their practice. Catawba Family Care is also working with Gilead Sciences to create programs that are replicable and that embody best practices for treatment and linkage to care.
  • Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry provides testing, treatment, medication assistance and referrals for the uninsured.
  • Catawba Valley Medical Center’s Fairgrove Primary Health provides comprehensive treatment for Hepatitis C for patients who have also been diagnosed with HIV, while Catawba Valley Infectious Disease Consultants can provide treatment for anyone diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is commonly spread through the use of contaminated injection drug equipment, and Olive Branch Ministry is working to reduce the possible harm to drug users by providing a syringe exchange program to decrease transmission of Hepatitis C and HIV. The group also connects users to drug treatment programs and other services.

Catawba County Public Health’s role is to provide free testing through the North Carolina State Laboratory for Public Health for former or current injection drug users, patients who are HIV positive, and Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965. Patients must set up an appointment and be screened in the Adult Health Clinic before testing is ordered. Public Health also offers Hepatitis A and B vaccinations for people who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in an effort to reduce potential damage to the liver by these other forms of Hepatitis.

The work group is also supported by Partners Behavioral Health Management, which links individuals to mental health care providers and addiction treatment options. The group meets once every two months and invites other service-driven agencies to join their efforts and contribute to the action-oriented conversation.