County Outlines Epidemiologist’s New Responsibilities
(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include new information released by Comal County on April 17).
Comal County said on April 14 it has hired an epidemiologist to help investigate and track the spread of COVID-19.
On Facebook, county Public Information Officer Paul Anthony announced that Epidemiologist Connie Alaniz will work in the Office of Public Health.
“When something like this is going on, it’s like watching a fire and not helping,” Alaniz said. “I wanted to be involved again.”
Alaniz will take charge of the county’s contact investigations, conducted after each positive test is confirmed, according to a press release issued by Comal County on April 17. Currently the Office of Public Health’s nursing staff share these responsibilities.
Each investigaton requires hours of conversations with patients and their families as well as anyone they came into contact with, to determine the source of infection, if possible. Contacts are asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Alaniz worked for nine years as an epidemiologist for Region 8 of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Region 8, investigating contact-tracing investigations in Guadalupe County before retiring in 2018.
She spent years working to trace communicable diseases like H1N1 along with food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria like listeria and salmonella.
On April 2, Comal County commissioners voted to bring an epidemiologist on board for one year with the help of $132,341 in grant money provided by the Department of State Health Services’ COVID-19 Crisis Cooperative Agreement. The state also will provide equipment needed to help track of the virus’ spread in Comal County. Alaniz’ position expires March 14, 2021, unless extended beforehand.
“We are thrilled to welcome Connie to our office,” said Director of Public Health Cheryl Fraser. “Her experience is much needed in helping us conduct the investigations that will identify clusters and outbreaks and help us limit the spread of the virus as much as possible.
“Connie’s knowledge of our area and experience in investigating and studying outbreaks made her a perfect fit for our office,” she said.
According to LinkedIn, Alaniz’ title at Texas Department of State Health Services was pubic health and prevention specialist.
“I have been a state employee for nearly 30 years, working in a variety of state government programs,” Alaniz posted on LinkedIn. “I have had wonderful experiences and have met some amazing people in public health over the years. Looking forward to my retirement, I hope to grow as a leader in children’s ministry, and pursue a second career wherever God leads me.”
According to a job description outlined there, she:
- Planned, developed and conducted epidemiologic investigations of individual cases and clusters of infectious disease.
- Collected and analyzed epidemiologic data in Region 8 to detect trends, outbreaks, unusual occurrences, and other possible adverse public health events related to infectious disease.
- Entered epidemiologic data into the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS)-Based System (NBS).
- Prepared reports and disseminates findings.
- Consulted with local health departments and health care providers regarding disease reporting and surveillance, reporting laws, and prevention and control measures.
- Assisted in the improvement and facilitation of regional surveillance systems through assessment, formulation of plans, and coordination of regional strategies.
- Assisted in the development, implementation and presentation of training programs targeted at improving reporting and surveillance systems at the regional and local level.
- Participated in the exercise of regional plans related to the all-hazards preparedness for and response to bioterrorism events, infectious disease outbreaks, and other public health threats and emergencies.
- Served as Regional Influenza Surveillance Coordinator.
Alaniz attended San Antonio College from 1993-95, where she studied business administration and management.