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Communicable Diseases

Communicable Disease Coordinator
Theresa Oellrich RN
e-mail: oellricht@otsegocounty.com

Our Communicable Disease Program:
The investigation of reported communicable diseases and prevention of outbreaks are among the highest priorities of the Health Department.  Staff works closely with New York State Department of Health to investigate, treat and educate the public and inform local providers.  Our goal is to prevent and reduce transmission of all communicable disease through this system of surveillance, control and education.
Certain diseases, called reportable communicable diseases, are required by law to be reported to the local health department.  In most cases, a public health nurse contacts the healthcare provider, patient, and/or family in attempt to determine how the disease was contracted and to teach how to prevent further spread of the disease. 
What are Communicable Diseases?

Communicable diseases are diseases that spread from one person to another either directly or indirectly.  Communicable diseases are caused by several kinds of tiny life forms, often called “germs” that usually can only be seen by microscopes.  The two most common kinds of “germs” are bacteria and viruses.  Others include fungi, parasites and prions.

How do communicable diseases pass from one person to another?

There are several ways disease-causing agents get from one person to another:
  • Airborne or droplet infection (e.g. colds, flu).
  • Animal borne or insect borne infection (e.g. rabies, malaria, Lyme Disease).
  • Blood borne infection (e.g. HIVhepatitis).
  • Food borne or water borne infection (e.g. salmonella, giardia).
  • Sexually transmitted (e.g. chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis).
  • Other direct contact (e.g. some kinds of warts, scabies).
  • Indirect contact (e.g. colds and flu carried from person to person on dirty tissues, money, door knobs, phones, computer keyboards).
Where can I get accurate information on communicable diseases?

The internet is an excellent source of information, but depending on the source, may be inaccurate or incomplete.  It is important to know reliable sources of information.  Two reliable sources are the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health
Your healthcare provider is always a good source for information.  You can also contact a registered nurse at Otsego County Department of Health, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm at (607)547-4230.

How can I prevent the spread of communicable disease? 

  • Take advantage of vaccines that are available to prevent serious illnesses.
  • Practice good infection control
  • When you are sick keep your germs to yourself and stay home from work or school.
  • When you are well stay a safe distance (2-3 feet) from those who are sick.
  • If you are given medication to treat an infection, be sure to finish your prescription.  Stopping too soon may lead to resistance, making future infections harder to fight.
  • Wash hands frequently and completely
  • Use alcohol gel or hand rubs in place of soap and water only if hands are not visibly dirty and the solution contains at least 60% alcohol.

Communicable Disease Resources