42.4  Management of epidemics

Epidemic management activities include taking appropriate control measures, such as treating those who are ill to reduce the reservoir of infection, and providing health education to limit the transmission of the disease to others. Health professionals at higher levels will require your help in putting into taking any measures needed to control the spread of the disease, such as giving drugs to people in the community and providing health education.

As mentioned above, you may be involved in the management of an epidemic once it is confirmed by the health authorities. The type of control measures you need to implement depend on the type of infectious agent, how the disease is transmitted, and any other factors contributing to the disease. Generally, your control measures should target the infectious agent, the source of any infection, and the treatment of those who became ill. Remember, the source of infection could be humans or animals, or non-living things in the environment.

If you do not implement the correct control measures, the epidemic may continue to spread in your area. For example, if contaminated food is the source of an outbreak in your community, you will need to control the outbreak by teaching the community about food hygiene (Figure 42.4), so they are not exposed to contaminated food. If it is caused by contaminated water, you should educate them not to drink the water until it is treated with chlorine. If mosquito breeding sites are the source of a malaria epidemic, you will need to teach the community to clear the breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Figure 42.4  Teaching community members about preparing food safely can prevent an epidemic of foodborne infection.

This short discussion of epidemic investigation and management brings the Communicable Diseases Module to a close. We hope that after studying the 42 study sessions and completing your practical training attachments, you will feel confident to identify, treat, refer, prevent and control communicable diseases effectively in your community, and report cases accurately and at the proper time.

42.3  Epidemic investigation

Summary of Study Session 42