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TDH Protecting Tennesseans from Emerging Diseases

Friday, August 08, 2014 | 09:20am

NASHVILLE – Protecting people from infectious diseases is a vital part of the mission of the Tennessee Department of Health, and TDH works around the clock to prepare for, respond to and protect people in the state from diseases both familiar and new to Tennessee. TDH has plans in place to respond to emerging diseases such as Ebola Virus Disease that are now spreading outside the U.S. as well as future health threats that may develop.

"'’Are we safe? What is the risk? What should I do?’ These are some of the questions we all ask when we hear about unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous communicable diseases," said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "TDH has an 'always on' surveillance, investigation and control system in Tennessee that starts with requiring reporting of many diseases including new threats like Ebola Virus Disease and MERS-CoV so we can work with our vital medical care partners to help individuals who may have acquired these illnesses and to protect people in Tennessee.”

TDH has plans in place to respond to reports of infectious diseases in Tennessee and prevent their spread. Health care providers are required by law to report any cases of illness that might pose a risk to public health. These include Ebola Virus Disease, MERS-CoV, measles, polio, tuberculosis, pandemic influenza and about 100 other diseases.

“Prompt notification of a communicable disease allows us to locate and treat people who have been exposed to the illness, identify and contain outbreaks and prevent further transmission of disease,” said State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “Information we receive through our reporting and surveillance programs also helps us monitor disease trends, identify groups that may be at high risk of illness and develop policies and programs to prevent the spread of these diseases.”

TDH works in partnership with numerous other states, organizations and programs as part of the planning for response to outbreaks of illness. Tennessee is part of the Emerging Infections Program, a national resource for surveillance, prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases. Hospitals throughout Tennessee are well-trained in surveillance and effective infection control procedures. Vigorous efforts in all-hazards public health emergency planning have established strong relationships among all levels of health care and emergency response agencies.

“Generally we are very safe, and we know there are risks that cannot be fully controlled in a free society, but they can be reduced by staying informed; paying attention to advice from health authorities and care providers; taking measures like getting vaccinated that will minimize risk from potentially severe but preventable illnesses like flu, measles and whooping cough; and taking precautions to avoid bug bites,” said Dreyzehner. “To put it in perspective, while a disease like EVD is a grave threat to individuals that contract it, and we absolutely take preparing for it very seriously, largely preventable diseases like flu and food borne illness cause far more sickness, suffering and death every year.”

TDH is in constant communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health and medical organizations regarding outbreaks of disease nationally and internationally and shares information with health care providers both directly as needed and broadly via the Tennessee Health Alert Network. TDH staff members are available around the clock to provide emergency consultation to health professionals on suspected and confirmed cases of communicable disease.

TDH makes rapid and transparent public communication a priority and is committed to providing people in Tennessee the information they need when they need it. TDH is now sharing information on a daily basis with health care providers across Tennessee on Ebola Virus Disease, or EVD, an emerging disease spreading in four countries in Africa. TDH has information on EVD available for the public via a new web page at CDC has EVD information available online at Should more information be needed, TDH is committed to getting the public information directly and through media partners around our state.

Learn more about reportable illnesses in Tennessee at

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments.  Learn more about TDH services and programs at

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency | Health | Press Releases