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What is Epidemiology?
Epidemiology is the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why those differences exist. This information is used to develop policies to prevent disease and control outbreaks throughout the community. We examine where people live, work and play in order to identify groups in the community with a higher risk of catching or developing certain illnesses. Once identified we address those factors that may increase risk and bring them back in line with the rest of the population.

What does a Public Health Epidemiologist actually do?
Most of the time, a Public Health Epidemiologist is responsible for investigating reportable conditions or diseases required by the State Health Department to be reported by physicians who diagnose cases of those diseases. An epidemiologist identifies risks in the community that may be contributing to cases of the disease, as well as to identify potential outbreaks early to prevent wide spread outbreaks.

In the case of an outbreak – when there are more cases of a disease than are normally reported in a community – the Epidemiologist’s job is to try to identify the source of the outbreak and end the outbreak if it is still ongoing. We also use what we learned in containing the outbreak to help create policies to prevent the outbreak from happening again.

Why have an Epidemiologist in Victoria County?
Until September 2015, the Texas Department of State Health Services had been handling the Epidemiology responsibilities for Victoria County. In September, our new Epidemiologist came on board and took over those responsibilities at a local level. Having an Epidemiologist here in Victoria County means we can quickly respond locally in the event of an outbreak, provide public updates through the media and create strong relationships with local healthcare providers and hospitals to improve our ability to respond. We now have a dedicated Epidemiologist who can focus efforts in Victoria County.