The Communicable Disease (CD) Program is responsible for the epidemiological investigation, preventions, and surveillance of communicable diseases in Ionia County. This Program leads Ionia
County Health Department’s efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (SYI’s) and tuberculosis (TB). The HIV/AIDS portion of CD operations focuses on testing for, preventing the transmission of HIV infection and prolonging improving the quality of life for those living with HIV through referrals to primary treatment programs. Cases of TB are also determined and referred to a primary treatment program. When making a referral, every effort is made to accommodate the individual client in regards to distance and personal preference.
The Communicable Disease Program monitors and investigate the occurrence of communicable disease in Ionia County. Communicable disease, like HIV, STI’s, and TB are diseases that are infectious or contagious. They can be transmitted directly from person to person or animal to person, or indirectly through contaminated food and beverages, particularly water. Communicable diseases are a continuing and significant threat to populations. Even though, some diseases have been eliminated, new bacteria and viruses are emerging or remerging in multi-drug resistant forms.
The role of the Communicable Disease Nurse is to control and prevent the occurrence of infectious diseases in a community through surveillance, investigation, detection, identification of pathogens and facilitating compliance of primary care providers in reporting unusual case presentations or clusters of like symptoms to the State of Michigan. The early identification of infectious diseases and the control of these illnesses is the role of the primary care provider. Physicians and laboratories are required to report over 70 communicable disease to local health departments. Schools, child care centers and infection control officers are also required to report to the local health department. A list of 2023 reportable disease in Michigan can be found here.
Sources of Infection
Communicable diseases are caused by germs, such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites and are spread by an infected person, animal or object. The following are four principles sources of Infection:
- Fecal-Oral. These diseases are generally characterized by upset stomach, nausea and vomiting. Examples include infections with giardia, rotavirus, hepatitis A, salmonella, norovirus and campylobacter.
- Airborne. Diseases spread by droplets from the nose, throat and mouth. Examples include the
common cold, chicken pox, influenza, measles and pertussis.
- Body Fluids. Diseases spread by direct contact with body fluids, such as blood, urine, saliva or vomit. Examples include hepatitis B, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated items. Disease spread by direct contact with infected skin or contact with contaminated objects such as toys, clothing, bedding, etc. Examples include ringworm, scabies and lice.
A fifth possible source of infection/ illness is Foodborne disease. The bacteria or viruses that can cause fool-borne illness can come from a variety of sources, e.g., the environment, the food item or from an ill food-handler.
- Symptoms of foodborne illness include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, possibly a fever and a feeling of fatigue. How long before the symptoms of foodborne illness appear after eating a suspect food depends on what type of bacteria, virus, parasite or chemical contamination is responsible for the symptoms. Commonly the incubation period ranges from ½ hour to 72 hours.
- If you suspect a foodborne illness, call your physician, the health department cannot diagnose or treat your illness.
- If you suspect that something you ate has caused your illness, report it to the Communicable Disease Program at 616-527-5341, Ext. 295. This information is important for surveillance purposes. All information provided to the Health Department is confidential.
Following an animal bite, it is very important the clean to wound with soap and running water and seek
medical attention. Consultation with a healthcare provider is recommended anytime a bite wound
breaks the skin. The medical provider will determine the need for a tetanus vaccination booster,
antibiotics and whether or not rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is indicated. Animal bites are required
to be reported to the County Health Department.
When the bite is to an extremity, there is adequate time and it is safe for the patient to wait for
completion of a 10-day observation and confinement period of the animal or for rabies test results on
the animal to determine whether or not rabies prophylaxis is necessary. Bites to the face and head are
more urgent and require immediate medical intervention and perhaps consultation with the State of
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Disease Control.
You will be expected to relate the circumstances of the bite –provoked or unprovoked, household pet or
unmonitored animal especially out of doors. In the United States, rabies vaccine is licensed for dogs,
cats, ferrets, sheep, cattle and horses. An animal is currently vaccinated and can be considered
immunized if the vaccination was given at least 28 days before the biting incident and the animal will be
required to be guaranteed for 10 days. Even though rabies rarely occurs among currently vaccinated
animal, out of an abundance of caution, all dogs, cats and ferrets are confined and observed for 10 days
or euthanized and tested for rabies following a bite to a human. If an animal survives the 10-day period
there is no chance the pet could have transmitted rabies to its victim. Vicious pets and be taken from
their owners with a court order and owners prosecuted and/or sued for having a biting animal. If a
biting animal cannot be located, you may need to take the rabies series of vaccinations.
If a bat is present in your home and you or your pet had contact it or a person was sleeping in a room
with the bat, use precautions to capture the bat safely – wear leather work gloves, place a box or coffee
can over the top of the bat when it lands, slide cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
Tape the cardboard to the container and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to
breathe. If the bat is dead, put it carefully in a zip lock bag and refrigerate until you can take it to the
Health Department to be sent to State of Michigan Laboratories to be tested. If the bat is still alive, it
will be taken to a local veterinarian’s office to be euthanized and then sent for testing.
See Fact Sheet: Bats in your Home
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are increasing, especially among people ages 15-24 years of
age. Ionia County Health Department provides confidential testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea with a
test performed on a urine sample and results are usually available within 3 to 5 days. Testing for Syphilis
requires a blood sample and referral to a provider. HIV Rapid testing requires a capillary blood
specimen (finger poke) and results are available from the screening test in 20 minutes. If the rapid
screening test is positive, a second venous blood sample and definitive laboratory testing must follow.
This additional testing will done at the hospital. There is no cost for Health Department services.
Treatment for chlamydia and gonorrhea is also available at no cost to patients or their partner(s). Ionia
County Health Department offers the “expedited partner treatment” program that allows clinicians to
provide the client to take medications or a prescription to deliver to his or her sex partner(s) without a
medical evaluation or clinical assessment of those partners. After treatment, it is recommend for
persons who have tested positive, to get retested 3 months after treatment. Community referrals are
available for the treatment of Syphilis and HIV.
Free condoms are available at the Health Department and distributed to local providers on a quarterly
basis as part of “The Wear One Campaign”. The Wear One Campaign was developed to increase free
condom availability, create awareness and promote acceptance of condom use in individuals 18-24
years of age. The goal is to decrease STIs and unplanned pregnancies by removing barriers such as cost,
embarrassment and lack of access.
Health education is an essential part of a visit to the Health Department. Clients can expect to learn
about their risks for acquiring a STI, the disease threats to the male and female body, and steps that can
be taken to prevent future infections. Our nurses are experienced and trained to provide confidential
counseling, testing and treatment for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Patients may call the Health
Department at 616-527-5341 for an appointment. Patients that do not make an appointment will be
seen following previously scheduled individuals; a delay in being seen promptly is probable.
Vaccines are available for many of the dangerous or deadly diseases. Over the years, these vaccines
have prevented countless cases of disease and saved millions of lives. Infants, children, adolescents, and
adults need different vaccinations, depending on their age, location, job, lifestyle, travel schedule,
health conditions of previous vaccinations. Moat vaccines that are considered routine are available at
the Health Department. If you have questions regarding available vaccines, please call 616-527-5341.
People in certain job and travel situations may be exposed to dangerous or deadly diseases that are no
longer common in the United States. Because of the increased risk of disease exposure in these
instances, additional and specific vaccines are recommended. These vaccines are considered non-
routine vaccines because they are not part of the recommended immunization schedules for children,
adolescents and adults. The Health Department does not carry all of the “travel or non-routine”
vaccines but will help you to find a location to receive the needed immunization. As you are planning
your trip you can call the Health Department to be sure the needed vaccine is on hand or can be ordered
There is much more information on the CDC website regarding diseases and vaccines.
Foodborne illnesses are managed by a partnership between Environmental Health and Communicable
Disease. Foodborne illness, commonly referred to as food poisoning, is an illness resulting from the
improper handling, preparation, or food storage of items. The Ionia County Health Department
Environmental Health (EH) services is responsible for the licensure and auditing of food facilities located
within Ionia County that sell or serve food to the public. To protect the public from foodborne illnesses, all food service establishment employees need to have basic training in safe food handling practices.
Food licensure and safe handling of food classes are the responsibility of Environmental Health Services.
Communicable Disease (CD) is responsible for the investigation to determine the pathogen and
intervention to guide individuals regarding medical care. If you have questions, either program will
accept phone calls. Please call the Ionia County Health Department at 616-527-5341 and dial Extension
268 for Environmental Health or Extension 295 for Communicable Health.