November 2008 MedBytes: Infectious Disease

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Tex Med . 2008;104(11):64.

December's Texas Medicine will report on why it's important for physicians to report outbreaks of diseases to state and local health department officials. Health departments can't investigate the diseases, unless they know something is amiss. The first step in spotting an unusual infectious disease is recognizing the out-of-the-ordinary. These resources alert physicians to drug and medical device recalls and help physicians identify and report diseases while preventing them from becoming major outbreaks.

Health Care Notification Network
The Health Care Notification Network (HCNN) sends drug and medical device recalls and safety alerts to physicians online, replacing the current paper process that is slow and error-prone. At the HCNN Web site, , physicians can learn more about the service and can view saved or deleted Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alerts sent during the preceding 12 months. The Texas Medical Association worked with the FDA, the American Medical Association, and the Texas Medical Liability Trust to make HCNN available to physicians free of charge. Registration for the service is online at . In addition, physicians can designate practice staff to receive copies of the HCNN alerts automatically.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Emergency Preparedness & Response site, , of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is teeming with valuable resources. Bioterrorism, radiation, and chemical emergency information, along with tools for coping with mass casualties and natural disasters will guide physicians, public health officials, and other health care professionals in times of crisis. The A-to-Z index of all agents, diseases, and other threats is a quick reference that covers anthrax to Yersinia pestis (plague). The Recent Outbreaks & Incidents link has up-to-date information on hurricanes, floods, disease outbreaks, earthquakes, drug recalls, tornadoes, wildfires, school violence episodes, and more. In the event of an actual or threatened incident, physicians can access CDC's Health Alert Network at . The network ensures each community has rapid and timely access to emergent health information, as well as highly trained professional personnel and evidence-based practices and procedures for effective public health preparedness, response, and service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, CDC offers free CME courses on infectious disease topics that can be accessed online at .

Texas Department of State Health Services
The Infectious Disease Control Unit (IDCU), , of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) contains an A-to-Z listing of infectious diseases that features links to frequently asked questions and reporting forms for many of the diseases. IDCU assists local or regional public health officials in investigating outbreaks of acute infectious disease or any report of isolated cases of rare or unusual disease. The IDCU Health Topics section highlights animal control, hospital infections, food-borne illness, and sexually transmitted and vaccine preventable diseases, among other topics. Select the Disease Reporting link to be directed to the notifiable conditions list; investigation, surveillance, and reporting forms; and information on cancer, HIV/STD, tuberculosis, electronic, veterinary, and laboratory reporting. In addition, physicians may request e-mail notification of new editions of the DSHS Epilink , an online public health news journal, , that features infectious disease topics relevant to Texas.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services , a Web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is every physician's one-stop resource for all things pandemic, avian, and seasonal influenza. Select the Where You Live map to link to state pandemic planning information, state pandemic Web site information, and local state contacts. The site also has details on nations with confirmed cases of H5N1 avian influenza, including confirmed human and animal cases by country. For a historical perspective, physicians can read firsthand accounts from survivors of the influenza pandemic that occurred in three waves in the United States from 1918 to 1919. The Resources box on the right of the screen is loaded with tools that cover workplace questions; planning checklists and tools; community strategy for pandemic flu mitigation; pandemic flu preparedness, response, and recovery; hotlines; risk communication; and national strategy.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, e-mail  Crystal Conde . Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.



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