Old Diseases Require New Knowledge

Old Diseases Require New Knowledge

Disease thought long gone are resurging as the result of  lowered vaccination rates, homelessness, and other factors, and they are sending medical coders and billers back to their books.

Diseases Not Gone for Good

While polio is effectively controlled in the United States, public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), continue to express concern over other diseases growing throughout the country. Many of the diseases result from absent or failed immunizations while others pop up in homeless communities. Others result from global warming and travelling. Some of the diseases, like typhus and measles, were thought to be controlled. Here are some of the diseases, some of which decimated populations in the Dark Ages, to become better acquainted with.

  • Whooping cough (A37.xx) continues to pop up in schools and daycare centers. Often Grandma gives it to an infant, who has an even chance of being hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there were 48,277 cases in 2012 and notes an increase in the disease in 7-10 year-olds and teens.
  • Measles (B05.xx) cases trend upward. In 2018, there were 372 cases of the highly infectious, often crippling disease. In 2019, 228 had been reported by March. A significant outbreak in Vancouver, Washington sickened 71.
  • Tetanus (A35) An unvaccinated Oregon boy spent spent two months in the hospital with lockjaw after parents stitched up a cut on his forehead. Cost of the stay was more than $2 million. It was the state’s first case in 30 years but there are about 30 cases in the country last year.
  • Typhus (A75.xx) borne by flee-infested lice, rats, opossum, and feral cats, is becoming a health hazard in Los Angeles and other cities in Texas and Hawaii. A recent outbreak had sickened 57 Los Angeles residents at presstime.
  • Trench fever (A79.0), spread by infected lice, is found in the homeless population where sanitary conditions aren’t accessible. It’s bacteria, Bartonella, causes several diseases in humans, like cat scratch fever.
  • Tuberculosis (A15.xx, A18.xx) Airborne tuberculosis droplets continue to fly, spreading the disease but this is a success story.  One fourth of the world’s population is believed to be infected with the disease, while only 9,105 cases were reported in all states in 2017. While this is a decrease from previous years, increased vigilance requires accurate coding.  The CDC estimates that 70 percent of tuberculosis cases occur among non-U.S.-born persons.

Prepare and Check with Payers

Even if you work in a practice or group that doesn’t capture populations that usually transmit these diseases, your patients do. An employee in the Los Angeles City Hall contracted typhus in a rat-infested section of the building, for example.  An outbreak of whooping cough or measles could happen any time in your town, and a patient might be carrying latent tuberculosis – devoid of symptoms but at risk nonetheless.

Brad Ericson
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About Has 337 Posts

Brad Ericson, MPC, CPC, COSC, is a seasoned healthcare writer and editor. He directed publishing at AAPC for nearly 12 years and worked at Ingenix for 13 years and Aetna Health Plans prior to that. He has been writing and publishing about healthcare since 1979. He received his Bachelor's in Journalism from Idaho State University and his Master's of Professional Communication degree from Westminster College of Salt Lake City.

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