Here at the Panhandle Health District, we conduct Epidemiologic Surveillance, which is the ongoing systematic collection, recording, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data reflecting the current health status of a community or population.
Our team of epidemiologists function as disease detectives that investigate and keep track of the communicable disease cases in the five northern Idaho counties. If you are interested in knowing the number of cases that are investigated and reported to the CDC for a variety of diseases, we have them listed below.
What our Epidemiologists do:
Investigate cases of reportable diseases and conditions
Enforce needed restrictions to prevent the spread of certain diseases
Provide education to the public and health care providers
Work with our Public Health Emergency Preparedness section to monitor and prepare for new and emerging diseases
Issue Health Alert Messages to our community partners regarding urgent health matters
Investigate outbreaks of foodborne, waterborne, and respiratory illnesses in our community
Work with our local health care facilities by conducting syndromic surveillance to identify outbreaks and public health emergencies as fast as possible
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications. There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year.
When is flu season?
While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.
How the flu spreads?
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.
Symptoms can begin about 2 days (but can range from 1 to 4 days) after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.
How to prevent flu?
The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year. This page has resources to help answer your questions about the flu vaccine.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
How is flu treated?
If you get sick with flu, antiviral drugs may be a treatment option.
Check with your doctor promptly if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms. People at high risk of flu complications include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
Campylobacter is one of the most common bacterial causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. Campylobacter causes an estimated 1.3 million illnesses each year in the United States. Large outbreaks are rare and most cases are isolated and occur sporadically.
How do people get infected with campylobacter?
Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts. Outbreaks of Campylobacter are usually associated with unpasteurized milk or contaminated water. Animals can also be infected, and some people have acquired their infection from contact with the stool of an ill dog or cat. The organism is not usually spread from one person to another, but this can happen if the infected person is producing a large volume of diarrhea.
A very small number of Campylobacter organisms (fewer than 500) can cause illness in humans. Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can infect a person. One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a cutting board, and then use the unwashed cutting board or utensil to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods. The Campylobacter organisms from the raw meat can thus spread to the other foods.
How common is it?
For every 100,000 people, about 15 cases of campylobacteriosis are diagnosed each year. Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported. Although campylobacter doesn’t commonly cause death, it is estimated that about 124 people with campylobacteriosis die each year. Campylobacteriosis occurs most frequently in the summer months, but can occur at any time.
Who is most at risk?
Campylobacter is found in infants and young adults more frequently than in other age groups and in males more than females.
What are the symptoms of Campylobacteriosis?
Symptoms include diarrhea, frequently with bloody stools, abdominal pain, malaise, fever, nausea and/or vomiting. Symptoms usually occur 2-5 days after exposure and may persist for a week. Many infections are asymptomatic. The illness can be life-threatening for people with compromised immune systems. People are contagious as long as they are infected with campylobacter. The illness typically lasts one week.
How do people prevent infection?
Cook all poultry products thoroughly. Make sure the meat is cooked throughout, juices run clear and the inside is cooked to 165 degrees.
If served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking.
Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat.
Use a separate cutting board for vegetables and raw meat.
Avoid consuming unpasteurized milk and untreated surface water.
Make sure that persons with diarrhea, particularly children, wash their hands carefully and frequently with soap to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
Wash hands with soap after having contact with pet feces.
How is campylobacteriosis treated?
Most people recover with no specific treatment. Patients should drink plenty of fluids while the diarrhea lasts. In severe cases, doctor-prescribed antibiotics may be used.
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as “Crypto.”
There are many species of Cryptosporidium that infect animals, some of which also infect humans. The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very tolerant to chlorine disinfection.
Where does it come from?
It’s found in drinking and recreational water. It is one of the most common causes of water-borne disease.
How does it make you sick?
The parasite lives in the intestine and passes out of the body in the stool. Millions of crypto germs can be released in a bowel movement from an infected person or animal. Consequently, Cryptosporidium is found in soil, food, water or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected human or animal feces. If a person swallows the parasite, he or she becomes infected.
It spreads by:
Accidentally putting something into your mouth or swallowing something that has come into contact with feces of a person or animal infected with Crypto.
Accidentally swallowing recreational water contaminated with Crypto. Recreational water includes water in swimming pools, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds or streams that can be contaminated with sewage or feces from people or animals.
Eating uncooked food contaminated with Crypto. Thoroughly wash with clean, safe water all vegetables and fruits you plan to eat raw.
Drinking untreated surface water from lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds wile in the outdoors.
What are the symptoms?
Stomach cramps or pain
Some people with Crypto have no symptoms. While the small intestine is the site most commonly affected, Crypto infections could possibly affect other areas of the digestive or the respiratory tracts. In people with healthy immune systems the symptoms typically last one to two weeks. The symptoms may go in cycles in which a person may seem to get better for a few days, then feel worse again before the illness ends.
How do I prevent catching a Crypto infection?
Practice good hygiene. Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water. Always wash hands after using the toilet and before handling or eating food. Wash hands after diaper changes. Protect others by not swimming if you have diarrhea.
Avoid water that might be contaminated. Don’t drink recreational water, untreated water from shallow wells, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds and streams or untreated water during community-wide outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated drinking water. Don’t use untreated ice or drinking water when traveling in countries where the water supply may be unsafe.
Avoid food that may be contaminated.
Is there treatment for Crypto?
Most people with healthy immune systems recover without treatment. During periods of diarrhea, patients should drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. If symptoms continue beyond a week or intensify, consult with your doctor who can prescribe medication.
Giardia, also known as Giardia intestinalis, Giardia lamblia, or Giardia duodenalis is a microscopic parasite that causes a diarrheal illness in infected people. The parasite lives in the intestine of an infected person or animal and exits in the feces. Giardia is protected by an outer shell that enables it to survive outside the body for months and survive normal levels of chlorine disinfection.
How do you get giardiasis?
Giardia is found on surfaces, soil, food or water that has been contaminated with feces from an infected person or animal. You may become infected from:
• Accidentally swallowing it in recreational waters such as public pools, lakes, hot tubs, fountains or streams contaminated with feces or sewage from humans or animals.
• Eating uncooked food contaminated with Giardia.
• Touching surfaces contaminated with giardia, then touching your mouth.
• Drinking water or using ice from contaminated sources.
What are the symptoms of Giardia?
Giardia infection can cause:
o gas or flatulence
o greasy stools that tend to float
o stomach or abdominal cramps
o upset stomach or nausea
Sometimes individuals have no symptoms at all.
Symptoms may lead to weight loss and dehydration. They typically start one to two weeks after a person is infected and generally last two to six weeks.
How is giardiasis diagnosed?
A stool sample will reveal the parasite, but it may take several samples. Giardia is difficult to diagnose.
Is Giardiasis treatable?
A health provider can prescribe several different medications to treat giardiasis. Dehydration resulting from diarrhea can be life threatening particularly to infants. Health providers offer fluid replacement options for infants.
How does Giardia spread?
Giardia is contagious. To protect yourself or prevent spreading it:
o Wash your hands well with soap and water after using the toilet and changing diapers and before handling food.
o Do not swim in public waters while you have diarrhea and for one week after it has stopped. You can still contaminate the water.
o Shower with soap and water before entering recreational waters. Wash children well after they use the toilet and after diaper changes and before they enter the water.
o Wash and/or peel all raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
o Use safe, uncontaminated water to wash all food that is to be eaten raw.
o Avoid eating uncooked foods when traveling in countries with minimal water treatment and sanitation systems.
o Don’t drink untreated water from shallow wells, lakes, etc.
o Don’t swallow recreational water.
o Don’t drink untreated water or use ice in countries where the water supply may be unsafe.
How do I make water safe for drinking?
Heat water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute OR
Use a filter that has an absolute pore size of at least 1 micron or one that has been NSF rated for “cyst removal.”
Is Giardia found in well water?
Wells can be a source of infection. Runoff from rain or flood water may drain into your well if it’s at the bottom of a hill. If the well is in a grazing area, animal waste may seep into the well as it seeps into the ground if the well’s construction is compromised.
Tests to identify Giardia in wells are expensive. If people who use the well water are sick, tests for Coliform or E. coli will show if the water is contaminated with fecal matter. If the test results are positive, stop drinking the water and contact your local water authority for instructions on how to disinfect your well.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It can range from a short-term acute mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a serious, lifelong chronic illness.
The short-term acute illness occurs within the first six months after a person is exposed to the virus. It may lead to chronic infection.
Chronic hepatitis B infection is a long-term illness that happens when the virus remains in a person’s body.
How does Hepatitis B spread?
Hepatitis B is spread when the blood, semen or another body fluid from a person infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who isn’t infected. Transmission can occur through:
o Sexual contact
o Sharing needles, syringes or other drug-injection equipment with an infected person
o From mother to baby through the birth process
o Sharing personal items such as toothbrushes and razors that might have small amounts of blood on them
o Exposure to the blood of an infected person
o Accidental needle sticks in the health care profession
o Hepatitis B is NOT spread through coughing or sneezing.
Hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than HIV. It is an extremely hardy virus that can live for several weeks outside the body.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Some people, particularly young children, have no symptoms with acute Hepatitis B. Symptoms occur in most adults within 6 months of exposure to the virus. Symptoms can last from a few weeks to several months. They include:
o loss of appetite
o abdominal pain
o dark urine
o clay-colored bowel movements
o joint pain
Chronic hepatitis B may show no symptoms for up to 30 years, but some people experience ongoing symptoms similar to those of acute hepatitis B.
How is Hepatitis B diagnosed and treated?
Doctors diagnose the infection using blood tests. There is no medication available to treat acute hepatitis B. Doctors usually recommend rest, good nutrition and fluids. People with chronic hepatitis B should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease. Specific medications benefit some people.
How serious is chronic Hepatitis B?
About 15% to 25% of people with chronic Hepatitis B develop serious liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Every year, nearly 4,000 people in the United States and more than 600,000 worldwide die from hepatitis B-related liver disease.
Can hepatitis B be prevented?
Yes. The Hepatitis B vaccination is the best prevention. Children usually get the vaccination in three shots over six months. The entire series is necessary. The vaccine doesn’t provide protection for people already infected.
Who should get vaccinated against hepatitis B?
EVERYONE should be vaccinated for Hepatitis B. This is a normal recommended childhood vaccine.
Hepatitis C is a contagious blood-borne infection caused by a virus, which can damage the liver over time and even cause liver cancer. Some people may experience acute illness within a few weeks to a few months after infection, however most do not. Up to 80% of those infected will become chronically infected.
Acute hepatitis C occurs within the first six months after someone is exposed to the virus.
Chronic hepatitis C occurs when the virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis or liver cancer.
How do I catch it?
The hepatitis C virus spreads primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Most people today become infected by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Here are other ways people can be infected with hepatitis C:
o Needlestick injuries in healthcare settings.
o Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C.
o Sharing personal care items such as razors, nail clippers or toothbrushes that might have small amounts of blood on them.
o Individuals who have received blood transfusions before 1992.
What are the symptoms of acute Hepatitis C?
Most people–70% to 80%–who have acute hepatitis C have no symptoms. Some people have mild to severe symptoms soon after being infected. Those symptoms include:
o loss of appetite
o abdominal pain
o dark urine
o clay-colored stools
o joint pain
o jaundice–yellowish skin or eyes
When symptoms occur, they typically arrive six to seven weeks after exposure to the virus but can start anywhere from two weeks to six months after exposure.
How is chronic hepatitis C different?
Most people with chronic hepatitis C don’t have symptoms. But an infection that lasts for years may damage the liver. Hepatitis C infection is often detected from the liver problems it causes. Chronic hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems that include liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer or even death. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. About 8,000 to 10,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver disease.
How is hepatitis C diagnosed?
A series of blood tests are used to test for hepatitis C.
Is there treatment for hepatitis C?
There is medication to treat most cases of hepatitis C.
Treatment depends on many different factors, so it is important to see a doctor experienced in treating patients with hepatitis C. New and improved treatments are available that can cure hepatitis C in many people. Currently, there is not a vaccine to prevent acquiring hepatitis C.
Norovirus is one of a group of viruses that cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Norovirus is one of the leading causes of food-borne illness.
How do I catch it?
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. You can become infected by:
o eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus;
o touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing your hand in your mouth;
o having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms.
o Noroviruses are very contagious and spread easily from person to person. Infected people are contagious as soon as they start to feel sick until three days after they recover.
o Norovirus is extremely hardy and survives well in the environment, especially in frequently touched areas.
What are the symptoms of Norovirus?
Norovirus symptoms generally last one or two days and include:
o Stomach cramping
o Low-grade fever
o Muscle ache
They usually begin 24 to 48 hours after the virus enters your body, but they can start as early as 12 hours after exposure.
Is Norovirus dangerous?
Norovirus can make you feel very sick and vomit many times, but the symptoms usually quit after a day or two. The illness has no long-term health effects. You can, though, become dehydrated if you can’t replace the liquid you’re losing from vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration could require special medical attention. It happens most often with the very young, elderly and people with other illnesses.
Is there treatment for Norovirus?
There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection. There is also no drug to treat people infected with the virus. Supportive care includes plenty of clear liquids and rest.
Is Norovirus preventable?
You can decrease your chances of contacting noroviruses by following these steps:
Frequently wash your hands, particularly after toilet visits and changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.
Carefully wash fruits and vegetables, and steam oysters before eating them.
Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner.
Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with the virus after an episode of illness. Use hot water and soap.
Flush or discard any vomit and/or stool in the toilet and made sure that the surrounding area is kept clean.
Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory disease, also known as whooping cough.
What are the symptoms?
Early symptoms can include a runny nose, low grade fever and cough. After 1 to 7 days, the symptoms intensify to bursts of rapid coughs. Pertussis causes coughing fits that are characterized by a high pitched “whoop” sound, including, vomiting and exhaustion during or after cough fits. Coughing is typically worse at night.
Is it dangerous?
Complications include bacterial pneumonia and rib fractures. In infants, pertussis may lead to seizures, pneumonia, brain damage and death.
Is it contagious?
Pertussis is most contagious before the coughing starts and continues for 3 weeks in untreated individuals. An infected person can spread the bacteria without even knowing he or she is carrying it. Pertussis spreads through the air.
Can I prevent pertussis infection?
The pertussis vaccine can prevent pertussis. The vaccine is included in Tdap for adults and DTaP for children 6 years and younger. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends five doses of DTaP for infants and children – one dose at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months and at 4-6 years.
Adolescent children 11 through 18 should receive a single Tdap booster if they’ve completed the five listed above.
Adults ages 19 through 64 need one Tdap, particularly if they’re in close contact with an infant. Pregnant women are encouraged to be immunized with each pregnancy between the 27th and 36th weeks.
PHD has confirmed a human case of West Nile Virus in North Idaho. A Kootenai County resident over the age of 50 tested positive for the virus. This is the first locally-acquired human case ever reported in North Idaho.
What is West Nile Virus?
West Nile Virus is a virus carried by mosquitoes. It spreads to people through a mosquito bite. The virus was first identified in Africa, moved to Asia and the Middle East and reached North America in 1999. It rapidly spread across the United States from east to west.
Will it make me sick?
It may not make you sick at all. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito have no symptoms. But it can develop into a serious illness in others. About one of every five people infected develop these symptoms:
skin rash on the chest, stomach and back
swollen lymph nodes in the neck
These symptoms may last for a few days in some people or a few weeks in others.
About one in every 150 people infected with West Nile Virus develops a severe illness. Their symptoms worsen to include:
How does West Nile Virus spread?
Infected mosquitoes spread West Nile Virus through their bites. Mosquitoes get infected from feeding on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can spread the virus to people, horses and many other animals.
In a few cases, West Nile Virus has spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, breastfeeding and from mother to baby during pregnancy.
The virus doesn’t spread from person to person through casual contact or touching or kissing.
How long does it take to get sick?
Symptoms usually develop three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Can I prevent West Nile Virus?
Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to prevent West Nile Virus.
Use mosquito repellent when you’re outdoors that contains an EPA-registered active ingredient.
Dawn and dusk are when mosquitoes are most active. Cover exposed skin, stay indoors or wear repellent if you’re outdoors.
Check your window and door screens for holes that allow mosquitoes indoors.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Dump water from flower pots, buckets, etc. Change water in pet dishes and bird baths a few times each week. Empty wading pools between uses.
Is there a treatment for West Nile Virus?
There is no specific treatment. In severe cases, people often go to the hospital for supportive treatments such as intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care.
Who’s at the greatest risk of getting sick with West Nile Virus?
People over the age of 50 or with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop serious symptoms if they get sick. Anyone outdoors is at risk if they’re not protected.
What is Panhandle Health District doing about West Nile Virus?
PHD investigates suspect cases in the five northern counties and investigates complaints about standing water. PHD also is happy to answer the public’s question’s regarding West Nile Virus.
Has West Nile Virus reached northern Idaho?
Mosquitoes and horses in North Idaho have tested positive for West Nile Virus in the past. In 2017, the first locally-acquired human case of West Nile Virus was identified. West Nile Virus now appears to be present throughout North Idaho
Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and is associated with other pregnancy problems.
What can people do to prevent becoming infected with Zika?
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness.
Always follow the product label instructions.
Reapply insect repellent as directed.
Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
If you have a baby or child:
Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs, or
Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
The mosquitos known to carry Zika are not found in Idaho.
Here are links to more information on Zika Virus: