Epidemiology: This is the part of medicine that studies and analyses the patterns, causes (etiologies) and effects of health and disease conditions in the populace.
In medicine, an outbreak is the term used to describe a sudden and unexpected spike in the occurrences of a disease in a specific populace and at a specific location and time.
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An outbreak can be limited to a small area or cover a relatively large area. An epidemic is an example of an outbreak and it is usually used to describe infectious diseases.
When the outbreak is global in spread then it is called a pandemic.
Incidence: This is the measure of the probability of occurrence of a particular medical condition in a population in a particular period of time.
On the other hand, prevalence is the proportion of the total number of cases to the general population and described as a measure of the burden of disease on the populace without taking into consideration the time at risk or when people were exposed to causative agents.
It is often confused with incidence which is why a clarification is needed.
It is possible that you might have heard of nurse epidemiologists before but exactly what do they do? What is the role of nursing in epidemiology? The following sections will do justice to this crucial question.
Healthcare has countless sections, specialties and subspecialties but the end goal is the same: welfare of the patient. However, because of the vastness of healthcare, there is no way success can be achieved by an individual and that is why team work is extremely important.
Without nurses forming a very integral part of health teams, there is no way the goal of ensuring patient welfare will be achieved.
Of course there is no doubt that epidemiology is one of the pillars of medicine, but so is nursing. In other to formulate and even implement health policies, nurses are definitely needed.
This is true irrespective of where the health policy is to be implemented – local, national, regional, international or global.
It is also the nurse who determines and ensures that patients are given the best of care, contain and minimize the overall infection risks while focusing on disease control as well.
As it is now, there are a number of diseases that are given priority in epidemiology and according to the World Health Organization, hepatitis is the most important infectious disease in the Americas with special emphasis on hepatitis B and C.
Others across the globe include HIV/AIDS, influenza, measles and rubella, poliomyelitis, rotavirus, sexually-transmitted infections, tuberculosis and vector-borne and parasitic diseases.
One thing with epidemiology is that it relies greatly on data and the analysis of evidence-based practices in various parts of the world aimed at reducing infectious diseases show an encouraging level of success but resurgence of disease in some other cases like polio in northern Nigeria.
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