All states have a "reportable diseases" list. It is the responsibility of the health care provider, not the patient, to report cases of these diseases. Many diseases on the lists must also be reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Reportable diseases are divided into several groups:
- Mandatory written reporting: A report of the disease must be made in writing. Examples are gonorrhea and salmonellosis.
- Mandatory reporting by telephone: The health care provider must make a report by phone. Examples are rubeola (measles) and pertussis (whooping cough).
- Report of total number of cases: Examples are chickenpox and influenza.
- Cancer: Cancer cases are reported to the state Cancer Registry.
Diseases that are typically reportable to the CDC include:
The county or state health department will try to find the source of many of these illnesses, such as food poisoning. In the case of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) the county or state will try to locate sexual contacts of infected people to make sure they are disease-free or are treated if they are already infected.
The information gained from reporting allows the county or state to make informed decisions and laws about activities and the environment, such as:
- Animal control
- Food handling
- Immunization programs
- Insect control
- STD tracking
- Water purification
The health care provider is required by law to report these diseases. By cooperating with state health workers, you can help them locate the source of an infection or prevent the spread of an epidemic.