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Disease Surveillance Systems

Public health activities depend on the collection, analysis and dissemination of health related information that is not only accurate but also delivered in a timely fashion.1 Disease surveillance systems provide this essential service and according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the data made available by these systems can be used for the following:2

  • Detecting changes in health practices
  • Detecting outbreaks or epidemics and developing appropriate interventions
  • Estimating the magnitude of a health problem
  • Facilitating epidermologic and laboratory research
  • Facilitating planning such as policy making
  • Formulate and evaluate control and preventive measures
  • Identify cases for investigation and follow-up
  • Monitor changes in infectious agents


In the US, disease surveillance has been brought to the forefront due to the threat of bioterroism.3 In 2002, the US congress provided the CDC with $17.5 million dollars to develop a tracking system that would integrate data about environmental hazards and exposures with data about diseases that are possibly linked to the environment.4 Two electronic surveillance systems were also tested during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and continue to operate within health centres in the city.5

Surveillance systems are not only used to battle the threat of bioterriosm as they can be used to monitor trends in infectious and chronic diseases such as HIV and diabetes. In Wyoming, USA, there is a computerized electronic mail network that links local health officials with the Office of the State Epidemiologist to all for ready transmission of outbreaks, investigation and diseases control information on a continuous basis. 6 In Fort Portal, Uganda and Nouna, Burkina Faso, surveillance systems are being used to track infectious diseases in Africa. 7 8


  1. Governors EMS and Trauma Advisory Council. [WWW] November 2001. Injury Epidermiology & Surveillance Program. http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/injury/reports/strategy/str01_msw.doc (15TH September 2003).
  2. CDC Organization. [WWW] General Description of Information System Development and Support Requirements. http://www.cdc.gov/od/pgo/rfp/2000N00120SectionJ1.pdf (15TH September 2003).
  3. Fidler, David P. [www] 30TH November 2002. Will Bioterrorism Reshape Global Public Health? http://academic.udayton.edu/health/syllabi/
    (30TH August 2003).
  4. envirohealthaction.org [WWW] Disease Tracking Recieves Further Funding for 2003. http://www.envirohealthaction.org/environment/disease_tracking/
    (30TH August 2003).
  5. Sample, Susan. [WWW] Surveillance Systems Give First Alert. Health Sciences Report. http://uuhsc.utah.edu/pubaffairs/hsr/summer2002/surveillance.html (27TH August 2003).
  6. Kamis, Ken. [WWW] Communicable Disease in Wyoming in 1995. Wyoming Epidermiology Bulletin. 1995; 1:(4). http://wdhfs.state.wy.us/epiid/Epi%20Bulletin1/epibulletin/4q95bull.htm (27TH August 2003).
  7. Wahser, Uwe. [WWW] 31TH August 1995. Construction of an Adapted Health Information System at the Example of the District of Kabarole, Uganda. http://www.wahser.de/uwe/DIPLOM/dip0.htm (27TH August 2003).
  8. Yé, Yazoumé. [WWW] July 2001. Demographic Surveillance Systems in Burkina Faso: The Case of Nouna Health Research Center (CRSN). http://www.apuuli.de/publications/dss-hmis/Md-2001-03/index.html (27TH August 2003).

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Last Updated: 10 August 2006.

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