The movie “Outbreak,” starred by Dustin Hoffman, exemplifies best what an Epidemiologist does. In the movie, an airborne virus, a virus that can be contacted in the air, was spread by a monkey to a human and then to other humans. The Epidemiologist called in to combat and check the spread of the disease, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, the first things he did was to contain the spread of the disease by ordering a state of quarantine on the areas with incidence of the disease. Then got the findings from the tests from afflicted patients to identify and understand how the virus is causing the disease. When it was identified that the cause of the disease was a type of an Ebola virus, which are naturally present in a specific species of monkey, Dustin Hoffman ordered a search for a particular monkey in order to produce an antidote and stop the outbreak altogether.
However, the things that happened in the movie cited above were what just what Epidemiologist would do in real life if and if there is really an outbreak of a virus or bacteria that is potent. Sometime back, the SARS virus scare forced airlines around the world to have arriving passengers from countries with SARS cases be thoroughly checked by Epidemiologists to make sure that no traces of the virus would be set free in their respective countries.
Since outbreaks and virus scares that may wipeout communities instantaneously seldom happen, normal or typical day for an Epidemiologist would be inside a laboratory with their petri dishes and live cultures of whatever microorganism. Apparently, there are diseases that are breaking out now and again, diseases like dengue, cholera, typhoid fever and malaria among other tropical diseases. Although, these diseases are very much treatable and easily contained, Epidemiologists are still constantly researching cases of these diseases as new strains might come out especially when exposed to a different group of people.
Probably, being an Epidemiologist would mean a government position employment because outbreaks of diseases are also a matter of national security. Any government should be concern with controlling and containing diseases because millions of lives are at stake when an outbreak or pathogen is left unchecked.
The primary function of an Epidemiologist really is to understand how and why a particular disease occurs. When the workings of a particular disease are understood, an Epidemiologist can give recommendations on how to control and get rid of the disease. However, since a different agency is in charge of disseminating information, which usually falls under the Public Health Unit/Department, an Epidemiologist must work in unison with the Public Health Unit so that his findings will not be for naught.