The Zika virus has made headlines after multiple confirmed outbreak cases were reported not only in South American countries, but in the United States and worldwide. The virus is transmitted to people through a bite from an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus in tropical regions. Since the virus causes a minimal amount of symptoms, some cases can go undetected, which has ultimately raised international concern and is now being declared a global public health crisis by World Health Organization.
When dealing with an outbreak that knows no borders, it is especially important to monitor suspected cases and track confirmed diagnosis.
Creating a Framework to Identify Suspected Cases
One of the most crucial steps in identifying any type of suspected epidemic virus case is providing front-line health care workers with case definitions and diagnosis algorithms to ensure rapid patient diagnosis.
Making use of a HAN system and situational awareness applications can help with the rapid distribution of the appropriate documentation to the health care community, arming front-line health care workers with the information to confidently identify suspected virus cases.
Screening Suspected Cases
The best approach to a potentially threatening virus outbreak is early detection and containment. Therefore, it is important to adequately screen suspected cases and update case information as patients present to, and progress through, the health care setting. Using a multifunctional patient tracking system, public health agencies can effectively detect, diagnose and track suspected and confirmed patients. Effective tools enable practitioners to customize important pre-screening questions, including:
- Recent travel activity
- Pregnancy status
- Presenting symptoms
It is important to use a tool that has configurable screening questions that capture diagnostic test results, help confirm a diagnosis, and ultimately provide an invaluable data repository on the diagnosis, treatment and life span of the specific pathogen.
Tracking Confirmed Cases
Once a case is confirmed, it is important for practitioners to continue to track these patients throughout the health care continuum, including provider referrals, hospital admissions, clinics, community health centers, alternate care sites and long-term care facilities.
Make sure your practitioners are able to capture the demographic and spatial information of the individual infected to facilitate locating patients for surveillance and follow-up care.
As you track suspected and confirmed cases, it is important to not only think of the individual but also the patterns that can provide insight into outbreak clusters and spikes. Some tracking tools, such as Intermedix’s EMTrack, allows you to aggregate data that helps detect outbreak clusters and spikes, identify prevalence rates and trends, such as gender, age, travel and exposure, and assess an outbreak’s impact on a community’s health care delivery system.