Reportable Disease

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: June 30, 2023

What Does Reportable Disease Mean?

Reportable diseases are diseases that must be reported to the local public health department upon diagnosis.

Every U.S. state has a reportable diseases list, and it is the responsibility of the healthcare provider to report all instances of these diseases. While the affected patients should take precautions following a diagnosis, they do not have a responsibility to report the disease.

Safeopedia Explains Reportable Disease

When such a disease is reported, a health department team will investigate the situation and provide guidance for treatment, prevention, and infection control. For certain diseases, state and federal emergency response systems are also activated.

Reporting diseases is important as it not only provides epidemiological data that can be studied, but also helps prevent epidemics by identifying and curbing the spread of infection. Armed with these reports, health department officials attempt to locate the source of an outbreak (for instance, of food poisoning or sexually transmitted infection). They then attempt to track down those who have been in contact with infected individuals and take steps to ensure they get tested, treated, and take measures to prevent spreading the infection.

Types of Reportable Diseases

Reportable diseases are diseases deemed to have urgent public health significance. For a disease to be reportable, it must meet both of the following conditions:

  • There is a risk that it may spread to others
  • It has the potential to cause serious health problems in those affected

Reportable diseases are divided into a few different groups:

  • Diseases that must be reported (in writing, by phone, or by fax) within seven calendar days (e.g. Lyme disease, tetanus)
  • Diseases that must be reported within one work day (e.g. West Nile virus, Zika virus)
  • Diseases that must be reported immediately by telephone (e.g. anthrax, novel viruses with pandemic potential)
  • Diseases that only require reporting of total number of cases, rather than individual instances (e.g. influenza)
  • Cancer cases that must be reported to the Cancer Registry

Diseases reportable to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:

  • Botulism
  • Cholera
  • Dengue
  • Hepatitis
  • Leprosy
  • Malaria
  • Measles
  • Syphilis
  • Gas leak poisoning

Information Provided to Health Officials

Doctors or medical laboratories must immediately report a diagnosed reportable disease to public health officials. In doing so, they must provide the following information:

  • Name of the disease
  • Pertinent information for the infected person (name, date of birth, gender, address, phone number, and health insurance details)
  • Date of laboratory tests and results
  • The health professional's name, license number, and phone number

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