Epidemiological Research Methods

Epidemiological research methods are the methods that are used to identify and classify the origins and spread of epidemic disease. This includes identifying the disease itself, identifying the vector (population) by which the disease is spread, identifying the root cause of the disease (virus, bacteria, fungus, etc.), how it is spread, and learning how to control said disease.

The most famous disease from history was the black plague that devastated Europe in the middle ages. Although there was little known about epidemic disease at that time it has been possible for later generations to figure out that the disease originated in Asia and was carried by fleas that lived on rats. The disease was introduced into Europe by means of rats that had been carried on ships. The infected fleas then spread into the native rat populations and transferred to humans due to lack of hygiene (and due to the belief that cats were evil agents of the devil and had been nearly exterminated in the cities). The disease spread up the trade routes from the major port cities and killed off a major percentage of the population of Europe. In modern times there is an understanding of how diseases spread that makes it easier to find and identify sources of disease.

A recent example of this was the Hantavirus outbreak that occurred in the southwest during the nineties. By research it was learned that this disease was spread by contact with deer mice urine. A treatment protocol was devised and persons who lived in locations where deer mice were prevalent were warned to use greater hygiene when dealing with areas of possible contamination.

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