Notifiable infectious diseases

The notification system in England and Wales is the oldest national system for collecting statistics on communicable diseases. The Infectious Disease (Notification) Act 1889 was introduced to identify and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Many of the diseases notifiable under that act are now rare or have been eliminated in England and Wales, but other diseases have been added to the list which now covers 29 infections.

Responsibility for notification

A doctor who makes the diagnosis (confirmed or suspected) of a notifiable infectious disease is required by statute to notify the proper officer of their local authority (in this case, Greater Manchester Health Protection Team and Salford City Council).

The only circumstances in which notification is not required is when the doctor has reason to believe that a colleague has already notified the case. This is not a voluntary reporting system and there are financial penalties for failing to notify a case of a notifiable infection disease.

Who is the 'proper officer'?

'Proper officer' is a term widely used in local government and defined as 'an officer appointed for that purpose by that body'. In most cases, the proper officer for some or all of the functions of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 is the Consultant in Communicable Disease Control (CCDC), but the most senior professional environmental health officer may also be appointed as proper officer for certain sections of the act.

Why notify?

Notifications are necessary to identify and prevent the spread of infectious disease. In some, cases notifications are used to monitor the development of community outbreaks or the success of immunisation programmes. In many cases they prompt the identification of vehicles of infection, such as contaminated foodstuffs or the identification and protection of contacts, as in the case of meningitis or tuberculosis.

Diseases which pose a serious threat to the public health, such as meningitis, diphtheria, etc should be notified by telephone, as should suspected outbreaks of infectious diseases, including food poisoning. Whenever notification is made by telephone, this should always be followed by written notification within three days.

Which diseases are notifiable?

The following diseases are notifiable under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010.

  • Acute encephalitis
  • Acute meningitis
  • Acute poliomyelitis
  • Acute infectious hepatitis
  • Anthrax
  • Botulism
  • Brucellosis
  • Cholera
  • Diphtheria
  • Enteric fever (typhoid or paratyphoid fever)
  • Food poisoning
  • Haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS)
  • Infectious bloody diarrhoea
  • Invasive group A streptococcal disease and scarlet fever
  • Legionnaires' Disease
  • Leprosy
  • Malaria
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal septicaemia
  • Mumps
  • Plague
  • Rabies
  • Rubella
  • SARS
  • Scarlet fever 
  • Smallpox
  • Tetanus
  • Tuberculosis
  • Typhus
  • Viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF)
  • Whooping cough
  • Yellow fever

Greater Manchester Health Protection Team

The Greater Manchester Health Protection Team works strategically to protect the health of Greater Manchester residents, to be a source of expert advice, and to assist local NHS primary care trusts in fulfilling their health protection responsibilities.

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