Infectious Disease Trends and Nursing Role in Epidemiology


The occurrence of infectious diseases in the US has been declining due to concerted countermeasures and improved health outcomes across the nation. However, public health nurses need to understand the prevalence of diseases within the community of operation to come up with proper health promotion and disease prevention strategies. This paper defines epidemiology, outbreak, incidence, and the prevalence of infectious diseases coupled with evaluating the role of nursing within epidemiology. It also links most current infectious diseases with the Healthy People 2020 objectives and analyzes evidence-based practices aimed at reducing such occurrences.

Epidemiology, Outbreak, Incidence, and Prevalence

The epidemiology of infectious diseases is the study of the “prevalence, incidence and determinants of infections in populations” (Rothman, 2015, p. 62). In this context, prevalence means the number of reported cases of infectious diseases present within a given region/populations in a specified period. On the other hand, incidence is the number of new cases of infectious diseases that occur in specified populations within a given time. Finally, outbreak refers the occurrence of infectious diseases above the normally expected rates within a specific region or defined populations at a given time.

The Role of Nursing within Epidemiology

Nursing plays a critical role in ensuring healthy populations and the field keeps on evolving to accommodate emerging health needs in communities. In epidemiology, a nurse plays the role of an advocate, caregiver, case finder, counselor, and educator among others. As an advocate, a nurse facilitates the provision of health services coupled with negotiating the needed care management plans. Nursing also helps in creating community awareness on health matters. The caregiving nurse offers care to people under different setups. As case finders, nurses carry out outreach programs targeting specific individuals that may need care services. The counseling nurse assists patients to cope with different health stressors that could disintegrate into full-blown crises. On the other side, nurses as educators promote learning to facilitate positive healthcare outcomes. Importantly, nurses are involved as epidemiologists where they study and analyze health problems within given populations to come up with focused interventions. The study of any disease cannot be complete without the involvement of nurses as they are the primary contact points between patients and other health care providers.

Current Infectious Diseases Locally, Statewide, and Nationally

Miami is one of the areas with the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS. Other infectious diseases include hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases. In California, the common infectious diseases include hepatitis B and A, HIV/AIDS, influenza, and rubella. Currently, there is an outbreak of Hepatitis A in California with San Diego leading with 586 out of the 703 reported cases across the state (California Department of Public Health, 2018, para. 2). Nationally, the common infectious diseases are tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, influenza, pneumonia, and Hepatitis A and B among others. In 2016, “the national incidence rate was 2.9 cases per 100,000 persons” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017, para. 1).

Current Infectious Diseases and Healthy People 2020 Objectives

The Healthy People 2020 initiative seeks to have higher life expectancy rates where people lead quality lives free of preventable diseases and injury among other objectives. The prevalence of tuberculosis in the US is in line with this objective as fewer people were infected in 2016 as compared to 2015 albeit with a paltry 3.6% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). The prevalence of Hepatitis C tripled in 2015 to reach a 15-year high with 2,436 new cases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). On the other side, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has been declining with only 37,600 new infections in 2014. In the light of these findings, Healthy People 2020 objectives are being realized albeit slowly. However, the full realization of the objectives is not feasible given the 2-year period between now and 2020.

Evidence-Based Practices Aimed at Reducing Infectious Diseases

The CDC has come up with a framework that employs evidence-based practices to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The framework has three elements aimed at surveillance, detection, and intervention. The first element seeks to “strengthen public health fundamentals, including infectious disease surveillance, laboratory detection, and epidemiologic investigation” (Frieden, & Khabbaz, 2015, p. 5). The second practice identifies and implements high-impact public health intervention measures to counter the spread of infectious diseases. Finally, the third element ensures “the availability of sound scientific data to support policy development at CDC and partner organizations while working to advance established and new policies to reduce infectious diseases” (p. 5). To achieve these objectives, CDC works with all healthcare provision stakeholders from the government to community to ensure sustainable healthcare provision, the formulation of proactive policies to address infectious diseases, local response readiness, and educating the public on preventive measures.

Infectious diseases continue to pose a challenge to the health of Americans due to unpredictable occurrence and recurrence patterns. However, the government has put in place sufficient measures to deal with these infections through concerted preventive exercises. The achievement of the Healthy People 2020’s objectives is on course, but the involved stakeholders should fast track their initiatives.


California Department of Public Health. (2018). Hepatitis A outbreak in California. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Trends in tuberculosis, 2016. Web.

Frieden, T., & Khabbaz, R. (2015). A CDC framework for preventing infectious diseases sustaining the essentials and innovating for the future. Web.

Kemppainen, V., Tossavainen, K., & Turunen, H. (2013). Nurses’ roles in health promotion practice: An integrative review. Health Promotion International, 28(4), 490–501.

Rothman, K. (2015). Epidemiology: An introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.