‘Backbone of public health’: Omaha health officials recognize disease intervention specialists day

Health officials across the country, including Omaha, are recognizing a group that does hard work out of the public eye to keep us safe.
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 5:37 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - These individuals are described as the backbone of public health.

“Our disease investigation specialists are really the unforeseen heroes of public health,” Dr. Lindsay Huse, Douglas County Health Director said.

Huse says a lot of their work is behind the scenes.

“They‘re the ones who were working on doing those disease investigations and the contact tracing.”

When these specialists are not behind the scenes, they’re helping people who were exposed to things like sexually transmitted infections and foodborne illnesses.

“These people have conversations with people every day around these really sensitive topics and are trying to figure out where they have contracted an illness. Other people in their lives may have been exposed and giving them a lot of education to ensure we contain the spread of contagious conditions.”

The Douglas County Health Department said these disease specialists are needed more now that STIs are becoming more prevalent in the United States.

“It’s not necessarily a surprise,” Huse said.

She said that as of 2021, sexually transmitted diseases are increasing in Omaha, especially chlamydia at a 6% rate and syphilis at a 21% rate. Gonorrhea, however, has decreased at a 76% rate.

She also said the pandemic is a major factor in why STIs are on the rise.

“The pandemic was really two years of a lot of stress, stress often leads to higher risk behaviors.”

Alejandra Rebolledo-Gomez is the STI Control supervisor. She can vouch for that. She oversees all the investigations done by disease specialists.

She says the rise of STIs is something they’ve had to be flexible with, but they’re here to help the community.

“We just want to stop the cycle of transmission,” Rebolledo-Gomez said.

Huse also hopes more people will realize who disease specialists are and how important their work is.

“We’re proud of them and this day is a day to set aside all the hard work they do,” Huse said.