An epidemic can involve a communicable disease like yellow fever, measles, Lassa fever, cholera, HIV/AIDS, SARS or Ebola. It can also involve a non communicable disease disease like hypertension and diabetes. It can also involve a health-related event like road traffic accident.
Emergency preparedness involves a systematic process of investigating and properly managing epidemics. This requires intensive accumulation of information and careful analysis of data.
Verification of diagnosis
It is very important to confirm the diagnosis of the disease when an epidemic is reported from an area. Clinical knowledge alone or supported by laboratory tests are adequate confirming the diagnosis.
Confirmation of existence of epidemic
Next step is to confirm whether an epidemic has actually occured. This can be done by comparing the prevalence of the disease with its incidence. It may also warrant visiting the area to interview the population concerning the occurrence of similar disease in the past.
Description of an epidemic
This involves identification of the affected persons and their characteristics. The place and time of the epidemic is also identified. The characteristics of the person to be analysed include age, sex, occupation, race, ethnicity, recent activity.
Notification of an epidemic
The confirmed epidemic must be notified immediately by the fastest possible means to the next higher authority. This is to enable the authorities to take appropriate action towards control of the outbreak.
Treatment of cases
This should commence immediately after diagnosis. There is urgent need to mobilize sufficient manpower, drugs, food supplies for treatment of cases.
Control of epidemic
This will also commence immediately after the diagnosis. The control measures will depend on the availability of resources and the type of disease involved. Strategies that can be adopted include isolation, quarantine, chemoprophylaxis and health education. Other strategies include disinfection, improvement of environmental sanitation and immunization.
The report should be disseminated to all concerned authorities. It should contain a tittle, author, date, statement of problem, method of investigation, result, discussion and recommendations.
This will keep under close scrutiny all links of the disease chain. The information will be used to promptly control any further recurrence of the epidemic.