OSDH Recognizes Disease Intervention Specialists
OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 2, 2020) – The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is recognizing the public health professionals in the state who serve as disease intervention specialists (DIS) on National DIS Recognition Day, Oct. 2. Often known as disease detectives, these professionals play a critical role in controlling the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and COVID-19.
The OSDH employs 23 DIS in addition to frontline supervisors and a field operations manager who work together to fight epidemics. They cover many miles across the state as they track patients who may have unknowingly come in contact with an infectious disease, and ensure they are notified and treated. Most recently, they have answered the call to respond to county health departments by assisting with and establishing contact tracing for the COVID-19 response and have been instrumental at the call center.
Terrainia Harris is the interim director of the OSDH Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service, which oversees prevention and intervention, care delivery, surveillance, and analysis of HIV, viral hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“Our DIS go above and beyond to notify people of a potential exposure to a disease and ensure they are tested and treated if necessary,” said Harris. “They often put themselves in somewhat dangerous environments for the sake of tracking people down in order to get them treated. This a critical step in preventing further spread of diseases.”
Since World War II, DIS have been deployed during public health crises such as Ebola, Zika, COVID-19 and other outbreaks due to their expertise in partner notification, interviewing, counseling, contact tracing strategies and community engagement.