Role of Public Health Departments

CDC has a long history of working with state, local, territorial, and tribal public health departments to investigate waterborne disease cases and outbreaks. The size and scope of the outbreak and the capacity of the health department to complete the investigation determines which public health departments participate in an investigation. Sometimes one department starts an investigation and then calls on others for assistance as more illnesses are reported across county or state lines.

Public health departments collect information on potential outbreaks to protect people from becoming ill.

Local health department role: Most waterborne outbreaks are local events, rarely occurring on a national scale. Public health officials in just one city or county health department investigate most waterborne outbreaks.

State health department role: Typically, a state health department investigates outbreaks that spread across several cities or counties. The state health department may also assist the local health department in conducting an investigation.

CDC’s role: A state might ask for help from CDC to investigate outbreaks that involve a large number of people, have novel or unknown transmission routes, or involve unusual illness. CDC helps investigate only after the state health department invites it to participate. States communicate regularly with one another and with CDC about outbreaks and ongoing investigations.