One of the important cogs in the public health wheel is a skilled communicable disease investigator (CDI). These are dedicated professionals from various educational backgrounds, including nursing, environmental health, life or behavioral sciences, and public health/epidemiology. Enteric disease investigators are CDIs that specialize in diseases that affect the intestines, usually causing symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Enteric disease investigators interview individuals that have been diagnosed with diseases caused by germs such as Salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, and some strains of E. coli. During the interview, the sick person is asked details about eating habits, travel, restaurants, outdoor activities, contact with animals, and in-depth information about a list of specific food items. Then, members of an outbreak investigation team can use this interview information to determine the source of an outbreak.
We are working hard to support and strengthen enteric disease investigators statewide . ADHS recently launched an e-newsletter for all of Arizona’s enteric disease investigators, designed to share information about interviewing, provide reminders and updates about diseases and relevant exposures, give tips and tricks specific to enteric disease interviewing, and otherwise empower enteric disease investigators in their work.
We also just completed a six-session video learning series with 18 of our enteric disease investigators from Arizona’s county and tribal health departments. This video series provided a forum for investigators to engage in open discussion following a short presentation by an expert in the field. The series covered topics including decoding enteric diseases, interview techniques, listening skills, questionnaire types, following up after an interview, and special considerations such as enteric illnesses in infants.
This video learning series was co-hosted with the Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence (Colorado CoE), a partnership between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado School of Public Health. The Colorado CoE identifies and develops model practices in foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response. The resources they provide include online and in-person trainings, educational opportunities, tools, and reports. The Colorado CoE recently launched an outbreak case study based on a foodborne illness outbreak caused by the unintentional ingestion of marijuana-infused foods at a county fair. Thank you to all enteric disease investigators for your invaluable work they provide to investigate diseases, identify their sources, and prevent more people from getting sick.