By: Juan Reyes
When disease outbreaks or other health threats emerge, epidemiologists are on the scene to investigate. Often called “disease detectives,” epidemiologists search for the cause of a disease, identify people who are at risk, determine how to control or stop the spread and prevent a recurrence of the disease. Physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and other health professionals often train to be “disease detectives.” Epidemiologists help identify the emergence of diseases that have never been seen before. The recent discovery of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an example of disease detection work supported by Epidemiologists.
The current Acting Country Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Dominican Republic (CDC-DR), Luis Bonilla, MD is an epidemiologist. Dr. Bonilla is currently working alongside Dominican health authorities in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For over a decade, Dr. Bonilla has worked in the epidemiology realm in the Caribbean region, including here in the Dominican Republic. He completed his university education and medical training in Peru and Spain.
As an epidemiologist, Dr. Bonilla has monitored and evaluated public health programs, and participated in emergency rapid response task force operations. He has designed and implemented epidemiological surveillance systems and trained epidemiologists and public health officials to help recognize and support disease outbreak response operations in the Dominican Republic.
To understand the source of an outbreak, epidemiologists, like Dr. Bonilla, use statistical analysis and study plausible answers to the questions that emerge in a disease outbreak. In searching for clues, epidemiologists gather information systematically in search of answers to questions such as:
- Who is sick?
- What are their symptoms?
- When did they get sick?
- Where could they have been exposed?
Epidemiologists, like Dr. Bonilla, use what they learn during the investigation to make recommendations to control the spread of a disease or prevent a future occurrence. If you are interested in learning more about CDC’s epidemiologists or “disease detectives,” you can visit the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) webpage.