Precision Epidemiology for Infectious Diseases Control
In recent years, there has been a focus on the use of precision medicine – a medical concept that is driven by the notion that one size does not fit all when considering medical treatments for various diseases. The concepts of precision medicine are also being used in the field of epidemiology (the study of the spread of disease). By utilizing genomic sequencing and other technologies, public health epidemiologists are able to reveal patterns of how individual diseases are spreading, allowing them to create interventions that are more specific than the traditional data that is gathered from patient interviews during a diseases outbreak. This technique was used by the World Health Organization during the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Information learned about the specific spread of Ebola allowed WHO to make an immediate change to their guidelines for Ebola survivors to cut down on the spread. Genomic sequencing also shows promise for combating seasonal influenza. By gathering more specific information on the virus, the seasonal influenza vaccine can more regularly be updated to respond to the influenza strains that are circulating. This type of genomic technology shows great promise to transform not only individual medicine, but also how the national, state, and local public health departments are able to more effectively respond to and stop the spread of disease.