Epidemiology As A Medical Field

Human beings are unique creatures with many strengths but are prone to be affected by various diseases. The field of epidemiology can be defined as the study of health-related factors that can influence specific populations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2018). Epidemiology explores causes of illness, disability, and death, analyzes communities at risk of a certain infection, and assesses the effectiveness of programs and services aimed at improving health (CDC, 2018). Epidemiology presents a vast specialization with a long history and a goal of understanding and enhancing people’s health.

The historical evolution of epidemiology traces back to ancient times. Hippocrates was one of the first to suggest that environmental and behavioral factors may affect the development of illness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2012a). Many years after Hippocrates, in 1662, a haberdasher and councilman John Graunt published the pioneering analysis that quantified patterns of birth, disease occurrence, and death, making distinctions between various populations (CDC, 2012a). In 1854, an English physician named John Snow introduced modern contagious disease epidemiology by describing a cholera outbreak in London (Lippi et al., 2016). Snow changed a prior understanding of how infections are spread by demonstrating the connection between contaminated drinking water and cholera (Begum, 2016). Moreover, Snow explained the time course of the outbreak, its transmission, and possible ways to control the disease (Lippi et al., 2016). The field of epidemiology has been significantly expanding since after World War II, including such areas as injuries, violence, and genetics (CDC, 2012a). Despite having a long history, epidemiology continues to grow due to the emergence of new infectious agents (CDC, 2012a). Epidemiology has influenced how people think of and react to illnesses.

The area of epidemiology investigates many intriguing cases, such as the outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. Notably, the terms outbreak and epidemic are used interchangeably and can be explained as the occurrence of infection among a population that is more than is anticipated in a specific time and place (CDC, 2018). Consequently, when examining an epidemic, epidemiologists concentrate on the elements of time, place, and person (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2012b). For example, illness occurrence can be regular or unpredictable, have different geographic locations, and affect distinct people depending on their individual characteristics (CDC, 2012b). Accordingly, the Legionnaire’s disease outbreak happened in 1976, and the place was American Legion Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (CDC, 2018). The time had been assessed since the beginning of the Convention on July 21, and the first deaths among conventioneers were reported between July 26 and August 1 (CDC, 2018). The person element in the case involved attendees of the Convention aged primarily from 39 to more than 70 years old (CDC, 2018). The outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease was unexpected and impacted older persons who gathered for American Legion Convention.

When an epidemic occurs, authorities must take certain measures to contain the infection. For instance, the Pennsylvania Department of Health should have thoroughly investigated the Legionnaire’s disease outbreak. Such examinations typically begin with establishing the existence of an epidemic based on individuals with similar symptoms, and upon identifying the cause of the disease, the analyses concentrate on control and prevention actions (CDC, 2018). Therefore, the first step the Pennsylvania Department of Health should have followed when the conventioneers started falling ill should have been to confirm the existence of the outbreak.

To summarize, the field of epidemiology studies various factors that may influence people’s health and has a long history that traces back to Hippocrates. Accordingly, epidemiologists are professionals who investigate disease outbreaks and help improve populations’ well-being. Epidemiology is both a fascinating and challenging occupation, and Winterton College is pleased to assist those interested in the specialization that explores the health of human beings.


Begum, F. (2016). Mapping disease: John Snow and cholera. Royal College of Surgeons of England. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012a). Lesson one: Introduction to epidemiology. Section 2: Historical Evolution of Epidemiology. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Workforce and Career Development. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012b). Lesson one: Introduction to epidemiology. Section 6: Descriptive Epidemiology. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Workforce and Career Development. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). E-learning course: Introduction to epidemiology. CDC. Web.

Lippi, D., Gotuzzo, E., & Caini, S. (2016). Cholera. Microbiology Spectrum, 4(4), 1-6.