Communicable Disease

Diseases that are spread from person to person are called communicable diseases. The health department staff helps to identify and prevent contagious diseases to help protect the public’s health. A communicable disease nurse conducts surveillance and investigates reportable communicable diseases. By working with local physicians, hospitals and labs, the nurse can track the disease and educate the public on how to prevent infection.

Services include:

  • Testing and evaluation of the disease
  • Treatment of the infection
  • Recommendations and follow-up to protect your family or other close contacts.

Communicable Disease Reporting in North Carolina
There are 70 diseases and conditions that are reportable in North Carolina. Reporting is compulsory for physicians and laboratories. More information about these diseases can be found at This is the website for the North Carolina Communicable Disease Control Branch.

Please contact the communicable disease nurse for questions or assistance in completing a communicable disease report or go to the above website.

Tuberculosis (TB)
Tuberculosis is a disease caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body.

TB germs are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. These germs can stay in the air for several hours, depending on the environment. Persons who breathe in the air containing these germs can become infected.

General symptoms of TB include fever, weight loss, feelings of sickness or weakness, and night sweats. The symptoms of TB disease in the lungs also include coughing, chest pain, and the coughing up of blood. Symptoms of TB in other parts of the body depend on the area that is affected.

TB can be cured by taking several drugs for 6 to 12 months. It is very important that people finish the medicine and take the drugs exactly as instructed. If they stop taking the drugs too soon, they can become sick again. If the drugs are not taken correctly, the germs that are still alive may become resistant to those drugs. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat. In some situations, staff of the health department meets regularly with patients to watch them take their medications. This is called directly observed therapy.

**If you have been exposed to someone with active TB disease, contact your doctor or the health department for further evaluation and testing.

Tests for TB
There are two tests that can help to detect TB infection. A skin test is performed by injecting a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person must return in 48-72 hours to have a trained health care worker look for a reaction on the arm. Other lab tests can be done such as blood tests, x-rays, and sputum tests if indicated.

Through public health education, screening, diagnosis, and treatment, there has been a steady decline in TB cases in North Carolina. TB medications are provided at no cost to all patients.

For more information, contact the health department (828) 649-3531.

The health department provides education, counseling, and testing for HIV.
With early diagnosis, medical care can begin sooner and help you to live a longer, healthier life.

The HIV test is a blood test that determines if HIV antibodies are present. Education about risk factors is provided in a counseling session prior to testing. Results are reviewed with the patient with opportunities to ask further questions. Testing for other sexually transmitted diseases may also be offered based on history and risk factors.

HIV testing is available Monday through Friday and is free of charge.

HIV infection and severe HIV-related diseases have become a leading cause of illness and death in the United States. Estimates indicate that approximately 30% of persons infected might not know that they are.

There have been many advances in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, including development of effective therapies that have reduced HIV-related illness and death. While these therapies have improved the quality and length of life, they cannot cure HIV/AIDS disease.

Early knowledge of HIV infection is critical to control its spread. Studies have demonstrated that many infected persons decrease behaviors that transmit the infection once they are aware of their positive HIV status. Those who do not know they are HIV positive continue risky behaviors and increase the chance of disease transmission to others. The decision to find out if you have HIV is a smart one.

For more information, contact the health department (828) 649-3531.

STD Sexually Transmitted Diseases
STDs are infections that people usually get by having sex with someone who already has an infection. STDs are common. You can get more than one STD at a time and you can get the same STD more than once. Some STDs can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Others cannot be cured.

STDs That Can Be Treated and Cured

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Vaginal Infections

STDs That Can Be Treated, but not Cured

  • Genital Herpes
  • Genital Warts (HPV)
  • Hepatitis B

It is very important to seek medical care if you think you may be infected with a sexually transmitted disease. You may be at risk if you have had sexual intercourse with anyone who has had other sexual partners. If the STD is left untreated, it can:

  • Be painful and make you very sick;
  • Make it hard for a woman to get pregnant when she wants to;
  • Make a man unable to father a child;
  • Cause birth defects or other health problems for a newborn.

STD screenings are available at the health department Monday through Friday.

If you are sexually active, one lifetime partner is the best. Latex condoms, although not 100% reliable, are very effective in preventing these diseases if used correctly and consistently.

For more information, contact the health department (828) 649-3531.

Epidemiology Team
Epidemiology is the study of diseases. The Madison County Health Department has an Epidemiology (Epi) Team to investigate disease outbreaks when they happen. The team consists of the communicable disease nurse, environmental health specialists, the health director, the nurse supervisor, health educator and physician. This group meets throughout the year and more often if a disease outbreak occurs. The epi team conducts interviews, gathers statistics, provides information to the public, and makes specific recommendations to physicians and their patients. The work of this team is one of the many ways the health department works to protect the public’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control website has a variety of health related prevention practices in general or by specific topic.
HIV and AIDS facts sheets.
HIV and AIDS drug information.
Information about Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Information about Hepatitis C.

National STD/HIV/AIDS Prevention Hotline 1-800-232-4636