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Disease detectives of Alabama work to keep ahead of spread

Rickey Stokes

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Posted by: RStokes
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Date: Mar 25 2020 11:09 PM

What happens when a person tests positive for coronavirus in Alabama? State and county health departments play a frontline role trying to contain the spread of COVID-19. Here’s how:


How does the state count cases? All labs that test for COVID-19, including commercial and university labs, are required by law to report all positive tests within four hours to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Those tests results are entered into a database that includes some demographic information, including the county where the patient lives.


Who is in charge? Staff members from the Alabama Department of Public Health reach out to the local health department where the person lives. Jefferson and Mobile Counties operate independently, but the rest of the counties fall under the jurisdiction of the main office in Montgomery.


What happens to the patient? Infected people are required to remain in quarantine for 14 days. They can leave for all necessary medical appointments.


Who tries to stop the spread of coronavirus? Disease detectives in the division of outbreaks and infectious diseases try to track down every person who spent at least 15 minutes within a 6-foot radius of the infected person. That includes family members, co-workers and acquaintances who might have traveled in the same car or plane. They notify the person’s employer, and exposed people are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.


Who is on the front lines of Alabama’s fight against coronavirus?


What the difference between public health and the rest of the health care system? While physicians in hospitals and clinics work to restore the health of people with COVID-19 and other illnesses, doctors and epidemiologists in the public health department try to maintain the health of the community by preventing the spread of disease. That may mean tracking and quarantining patients, administering vaccines and inspecting restaurants and medical facilities.



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