Communicable Disease

Local boards of Health play an important role in detecting, preventing, and controlling communicable diseases in their communities. Working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the role of the Rockport Board of Health and Public Health Nurses include:

  • Investigating and follow-up on all reportable communicable diseases and disease outbreaks
  • Educating the community and notifying the public about disease outbreaks
  • Ensuring that proper procedures are put into place for the treatment and prevention of disease
  • Monitoring disease rates and trends

A communicable disease is an infectious disease transmissible (from person to person) by direct contact with an affected individual or the individual's discharges or by indirect means; including:

  • Person-to-Person: physical contact with an infected person, such as through touch (staphylococcus), sexual intercourse (gonorrhea, HIV), fecal/oral transmission (hepatitis A), or droplets (influenza, TB)
  • contact with a contaminated surface or object (Norwalk virus), food (salmonella, E coli), blood (HIV, hepatitis B), or water (cholera);
  • Insect bites: bites from insects or animals capable of transmitting the disease (mosquito: malaria and yellow fever; flea: plague)
  • Airborne: breathing in an airborne virus such as tuberculosis or measles.

Reporting of cases of communicable disease is important in the planning and evaluation of disease prevention and control programs, in the assurance of appropriate medical therapy, and in the detection of common-source outbreaks. Massachusetts law mandates healthcare providers and laboratories to a multitude of diseases or conditions to their local health department. Some examples of reportable communicable diseases include Hepatitis A, B, and C, influenza, measles, salmonella, and other food-borne illnesses.

Ways to protect yourself from infectious disease include having healthy habits in an array of areas:

  • Handle and Prepare Food Safely
    • Food can carry germs. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces often when preparing any food, especially raw meat. Always wash fruits and vegetables. Always cook and keep foods at proper temperatures. Do not leave food out; refrigerate properly.
  • Wash Hands Often - Learn How to Properly Clean Hands and Help Prevent Flu and Other Diseases:
    • Wet your hands with running water - warm water is best
    • Apply liquid, bar, or powder soap
    • Lather well
    • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds
    • Rinse well
    • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer
    • If possible, use a towel or your elbow to turn off the faucet
  • Clean and Disinfect Commonly Used Surfaces
    • Germs can live on surfaces. Cleaning with soap and water is usually enough. Disinfect your bathroom and kitchen regularly. Disinfect other areas if someone in the house is ill. You can use an EPA-certified disinfectant (look for the EPA registration number on the label), bleach solution, or rubbing alcohol.
  • When Coughing and Sneezing...
    • Cough into your sleeve or elbow; cover your cough and sneeze
  • Do Not Share Personal Items
    • Avoid sharing personal items that can't be disinfected (toothbrushes, razors) or sharing towels (which should always be washed in very hot water) between washes. Needles should never be shared, should only be used once, and then disposed of properly.
  • Get Vaccinated
    • Vaccines can prevent many infectious diseases. There are vaccines for children and adults designed to provide protection against many communicable diseases. There are also vaccines that are recommended or required for travel to certain parts of the world.
  • Avoid Touching Wild Animals
    • Be cautious around wild animals as they can spread infectious diseases to you and your pets.
  • Stay Home When Sick
    • People who are sick should stay home and rest; this will also prevent coworkers or others from catching germs or further spreading illness.

For more information about communicable diseases, visit the Centers for Disease Control.