Q&A Tuesday: City’s epidemiologist is sort of a disease detective
Dustin Boothe is an epidemiologist for Carson City’s Health and Human Services Department. He has worked for the city for 10 years, initially as a health inspector.
The kickoff event for local flu-prevention efforts was Saturday. The city had enough vaccine to provide roughly 2,000 free shots.
Boothe lives in Dayton and is married and the father of one. He came to the area from Idaho, and graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology.
What is epidemiology?
Public health surveillance. It’s the study of disease within a community, and how a disease occurs within a community.
What is the flu?
Influenza, more commonly called flu, is a virus that infects the respiratory tract – nose throat, lungs. It can cause a more-severe, life-threatening illness compared to the common cold. Flu is a disease that is a concern for a community. It can cause morbidity and even death to the very young and very old.
How does your job fit in with flu prevention?
Epidemiology can show what is occurring. One of the main things I do is help the department with prevention of disease. We put messages out there to reduce your risk of getting any disease. We look at laboratory reports, see confirmed data, and we do syndromic surveillance. The city partners with a health-care facility for data. The health department receives information each week, throws it into a chart, and graphs it. I can gather data – how many people came in with a fever, a cough – break it down, look at it, and possibly put out a preventative message. A lot of people don’t get tested for the actual flu because they aren’t sick for very long.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Children can have nausea or diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults. What people call the stomach flu is usually caused by other viruses or bacteria, and is often a food-borne illness. It doesn’t last very long, so people call it flu.
What can people do to protect themselves from the flu?
We talk about prevention, tell people to wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes. Flu is spread person to person. Obviously, our moms taught us to cover our noses and mouths. Cough and sneeze into your sleeve or the crook of your arm. And remember to wash your hands and keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
Who should and shouldn’t get an immunization?
Children – except age 6 months and younger – up to age 5, people with compromised immune systems and chronic diseases, caregivers and people 50 and older should get it. Because it’s an egg-based shot, people allergic to eggs should avoid it.
There will there be enough vaccine to go around, though it depends on the provider. By the end of October, there will be 101 million doses of vaccine nationwide. That’s 17 million more than the nation has ever produced in one season.
What is the difference between seasonal flu and bird flu?
Seasonal flu usually happens from late December through March. Bird flu affects the avian population. We’re concerned about avian flu because it has infected some individuals. Most of those cases were in Asian countries. In other parts of the world, their dinner is waiting outside the door; they live with the birds. In America, our dinner usually comes from the grocery store. In birds, it’s a gastrointestinal infection, in feces. A human would get it living with them or cleaning up after them. This avian flu hasn’t spread effectively from human to human, except from the person infected to their caregiver, not casual contact such as hand-to-hand.
What is a pandemic?
An epidemic is a disease that has reached above-normal case numbers, but a pandemic is an above-normal number of cases around the world. It’s new to our systems so it spreads throughout the world.
For your information
Want a dose of flu vaccine this week? For dates, times and other details, contact:
• Carson City Community Health Clinic, 887-2195
• Raley’s supermarket, 882-3116, or http://www.raleys.com