IMAJ | volume
Journal 7, July 2002
The appearance of “new” infectious diseases, the reemergence of “old” infectious diseases, and the deliberate introduction of infectious diseases through bioterrorism has highlighted the need for improved and innovative infectious disease surveillance systems. A review of publications reveals that traditional current surveillance systems are generally based on the recognition of a clear increase in diagnosed cases before an outbreak can be identified. For early detection of bioterrorist-initiated outbreaks, the sensitivity and timeliness of the systems need to be improved. Systems based on syndromic surveillance are being developed using technologies such as electronic reporting and the internet. The reporting sources include community physicians, public health laboratories, emergency rooms, intensive care units, district health offices, and hospital admission and discharge systems. The acid test of any system will be the ability to provide analyses and interpretations of the data that will serve the goals of the system. Such analytical methods are still in the early stages of development.