Physician Letter - Reporting of Communicable Diseases

October 2007

Dear Colleague:

Physicians have a critical role in the prompt reporting of communicable diseases and can make the difference between disease control and an outbreak. This letter is to remind you of your requirement, under the New York State Sanitary Code (10NYCRR 2.10), to report communicable diseases, including cases, suspected cases and certain carriers, to local health departments.

Why Report

Timely reporting of communicable diseases by physicians allows public health agencies at the local, state and federal levels to identify newly emerging infections, detect outbreaks, prevent secondary transmission, and evaluate the effectiveness of control measures. For some diseases, every hour can make a difference in preventing illness and death. Because laboratory results may sometimes be negative when disease is present or suspected, the physician's report of suspected/confirmed cases may be the only notification the health department receives. Healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, laboratories, and local and State health departments all share the responsibility for reporting, follow-up, and control of communicable diseases.

What to Report

An updated list of the reportable communicable diseases mandated under New York State Sanitary Code is included, or can be found at: http://www.nyhealth.gov/professionals/diseases/reporting/communicable/. Suspected or confirmed cases of the diseases shown in bold print should be reported immediately by phone to the local health department in which the patient resides. A list of telephone numbers for the local health departments is enclosed. Diseases not in bold print must be reported by phone, mail, facsimile or other electronic means to the local health department where the patient resides within 24 hours of diagnosis. Case reports should include the name, address, diagnosis, age, gender, and date of report and onset for each patient.

HIV/AIDS reporting requirements vary from other communicable disease reporting. A complete description of these requirements can be found at http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/regulations/, or further information may be obtained by calling (518) 474-4284.

Communicable Disease Reporting and HIPAA

Reporting of communicable diseases, as required by law, to the local or state health departments is permitted under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Providers are not required to obtain patient consent before sending this information to the health departments.

Registering for a Health Provider Network (HPN) Medical Professions Account

The HPN is a secure, internet-based communication system that the New York State Department of Health uses as its principal means for disseminating and gathering important and sensitive information on urgent public health issues. All physicians should have an HPN account. To sign-up for an account, please access the application form by typing in your browser's address bar: https://commerce.health.state.ny.us/pub

Additional Information

For further information on communicable disease reporting, please contact your local health department or the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at (518) 473-4439.

We thank physicians for their ongoing efforts in reporting and controlling communicable diseases.

Sincerely,

Perry F. Smith, M.D.
Director, Division of Epidemiology

cc: Local Health Departments

Enclosures

  1. New York State Department of Health Communicable Disease Reporting Requirements
  2. Telephone Numbers for Local Health Departments