Public health surveillance is undergoing a revolution driven by advances in the field of information technology. Many countries have experienced vast improvements in the collection, ingestion, analysis, visualization, and dissemination of public health data. Resource-limited countries have lagged behind due to challenges in information technology infrastructure, public health resources, and the costs of proprietary software. The Suite for Automated Global Electronic bioSurveillance (SAGES) is a collection of modular, flexible, freely-available software tools for electronic disease surveillance in resource-limited settings. One or more SAGES tools may be used in concert with existing surveillance applications or the SAGES tools may be used en masse for an end-to-end biosurveillance capability. This flexibility allows for the development of an inexpensive, customized, and sustainable disease surveillance system. The ability to rapidly assess anomalous disease activity may lead to more efficient use of limited resources and better compliance with World Health Organization International Health Regulations.
Event-based biosurveillance is a scientific discipline in which diverse sources of data, many of which are available from the Internet, are characterized prospectively to provide information on infectious disease events. Biosurveillance complements traditional public health surveillance to provide both early warning of infectious disease events and situational awareness. The Global Health Security Action Group of the Global Health Security Initiative is developing a biosurveillance capability that integrates and leverages component systems from member nations. This work discusses these biosurveillance systems and identifies needed future studies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) collects and publishes surveillance data and statistics for select diseases, but traditional methods of gathering such data are time and labor intensive. Event-based biosurveillance, which utilizes a variety of Internet sources, complements traditional surveillance. In this study we assess the reliability of Internet biosurveillance and evaluate disease-specific alert criteria against epidemiological data.
We reviewed and compared WHO epidemiological data and Argus biosurveillance system data for pandemic (H1N1) 2009 (April 2009 – January 2010) from 8 regions and 122 countries to: identify reliable alert criteria among 15 Argus-defined categories; determine the degree of data correlation for disease progression; and assess timeliness of Internet information.
Argus generated a total of 1,580 unique alerts; 5 alert categories generated statistically significant (p < 0.05) correlations with WHO case count data; the sum of these 5 categories was highly correlated with WHO case data (r = 0.81, p < 0.0001), with expected differences observed among the 8 regions. Argus reported first confirmed cases on the same day as WHO for 21 of the first 64 countries reporting cases, and 1 to 16 days (average 1.5 days) ahead of WHO for 42 of those countries.
Confirmed pandemic (H1N1) 2009 cases collected by Argus and WHO methods returned consistent results and confirmed the reliability and timeliness of Internet information. Disease-specific alert criteria provide situational awareness and may serve as proxy indicators to event progression and escalation in lieu of traditional surveillance data; alerts may identify early-warning indicators to another pandemic, preparing the public health community for disease events.
Biosurveillance; Infectious disease; Epidemiology; Disease-specific alerts; Internet media; Early warning; Pandemic (H1N1) 2009; Situational awareness; Outbreak detection
The key to minimizing the effects of an intentionally caused disease outbreak is early detection of the attack and rapid identification of the affected individuals. The Bush administration's leadership in advocating for biosurveillance systems capable of monitoring for bioterrorism attacks suggests that we should move quickly to establish a nationwide early warning biosurveillance system as a defense against this threat. The spirit of collaboration and unity inspired by the events of 9-11 and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City provided the opportunity to demonstrate how a prototypic biosurveillance system could be rapidly deployed. In seven weeks we were able to implement an automated, real-time disease outbreak detection system in the State of Utah and monitored 80,684 acute care visits occurring during a 28-day period spanning the Olympics. No trends of immediate public health concern were identified.
Syndromic surveillance systems that incorporate electronic free-text data have primarily focused on extracting concepts of interest from chief complaint text, emergency department visit notes, and nurse triage notes. Due to availability and access, there has been limited work in the area of surveilling the full text of all electronic note documents compared with more specific document sources. This study provides an evaluation of the performance of a text classifier for detection of influenza-like illness (ILI) by document sources that are commonly used for biosurveillance by comparing them to routine visit notes, and a full electronic note corpus approach. Evaluating the performance of an automated text classifier for syndromic surveillance by source document will inform decisions regarding electronic textual data sources for potential use by automated biosurveillance systems. Even when a full electronic medical record is available, commonly available surveillance source documents provide acceptable statistical performance for automated ILI surveillance.
The international community continues to define common strategic themes of actions to improve global partnership and international collaborations in order to protect our populations. The International Health Regulations (IHR) offer one of these strategic themes whereby World Health Organization (WHO) Member States and global partners engaged in biosecurity, biosurveillance and public health can define commonalities and leverage their respective missions and resources to optimize interventions. The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Cooperative Biologica Engagement Program (CBEP) works with partner countries across clinical, veterinary, epidemiological, and laboratory communities to enhance national disease surveillance, detection, diagnostic, and reporting capabilities. CBEP, like many other capacity building programs, has wrestled with ways to improve partner country buy-in and ownership and to develop sustainable solutions that impact integrated disease surveillance outcomes. Designing successful implementation strategies represents a complex and challenging exercise and requires robust and transparent collaboration at the country level. To address this challenge, the Laboratory Systems Development Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CBEP have partnered to create a set of tools that brings together key leadership of the surveillance system into a deliberate system design process. This process takes into account strengths and limitations of the existing system, how the components inter-connect and relate to one another, and how they can be systematically refined within the local context. The planning tools encourage cross-disciplinary thinking, critical evaluation and analysis of existing capabilities, and discussions across organizational and departmental lines toward a shared course of action and purpose. The underlying concepts and methodology of these tools are presented here.
When real-time disease surveillance is practiced in neighboring states within a region, public health users may benefit from easily sharing their concerns and findings regarding potential health threats. To better understand the need for this capability, an event communications component (ECC) was added to the National Capital Region Disease Surveillance System, an operational biosurveillance system employed in the District of Columbia and in surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties. Through usage analysis and user survey methods, we assessed the value of the enhanced system in daily operational use and during two simulated exercises. Results suggest that the system has utility for regular users of the system as well as suggesting several refinements for future implementations.
The 2008–09 influenza season was the time in which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) utilized an electronic biosurveillance system for tracking and monitoring of influenza trends. The system, known as ESSENCE or Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics, was monitored for the influenza season as well as for a rise in influenza cases at the start of the H1N1 2009 influenza pandemic. We also describe trends noted in influenza-like illness (ILI) outpatient encounter data in VA medical centers during the 2008–09 influenza season, before and after the recognition of pandemic H1N1 2009 influenza virus.
We determined prevalence of ILI coded visits using VA's ESSENCE for 2008–09 seasonal influenza (Sept. 28, 2008–April 25, 2009 corresponding to CDC 2008–2009 flu season weeks 40–16) and the early period of pandemic H1N1 2009 (April 26, 2009–July 31, 2009 corresponding to CDC 2008–2009 flu season weeks 17–30). Differences in diagnostic ICD-9-CM code frequencies were analyzed using Chi-square and odds ratios. There were 649,574 ILI encounters captured representing 633,893 patients. The prevalence of VA ILI visits mirrored the CDC's Outpatient ILI Surveillance Network (ILINet) data with peaks in late December, early February, and late April/early May, mirroring the ILINet data; however, the peaks seen in the VA were smaller. Of 31 ILI codes, 6 decreased and 11 increased significantly during the early period of pandemic H1N1 2009. The ILI codes that significantly increased were more likely to be symptom codes. Although influenza with respiratory manifestation (487.1) was the most common code used among 150 confirmed pandemic H1N1 2009 cases, overall it significantly decreased since the start of the pandemic.
VA ESSENCE effectively detected and tracked changing ILI trends during pandemic H1N1 2009 and represents an important temporal alerting system for monitoring health events in VA facilities.
The establishment of robust biosurveillance capabilities is an important component of the U.S. strategy for identifying disease outbreaks, environmental exposures and bioterrorism events. Currently, U.S. Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) perform biosurveillance independently. This article describes a joint VA/DoD biosurveillance project at North Chicago-VA Medical Center (NC-VAMC). The Naval Health Clinics-Great Lakes facility physically merged with NC-VAMC beginning in 2006 with the full merger completed in October 2010 at which time all DoD care and medical personnel had relocated to the expanded and remodeled NC-VAMC campus and the combined facility was renamed the Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC). The goal of this study was to evaluate disease surveillance using a biosurveillance application which combined data from both populations.
A retrospective analysis of NC-VAMC/Lovell FHCC and other Chicago-area VAMC data was performed using the ESSENCE biosurveillance system, including one infectious disease outbreak (Salmonella/Taste of Chicago-July 2007) and one weather event (Heat Wave-July 2006). Influenza-like-illness (ILI) data from these same facilities was compared with CDC/Illinois Sentinel Provider and Cook County ESSENCE data for 2007-2008.
Following consolidation of VA and DoD facilities in North Chicago, median number of visits more than doubled, median patient age dropped and proportion of females rose significantly in comparison with the pre-merger NC-VAMC facility. A high-level gastrointestinal alert was detected in July 2007, but only low-level alerts at other Chicago-area VAMCs. Heat-injury alerts were triggered for the merged facility in June 2006, but not at the other facilities. There was also limited evidence in these events that surveillance of the combined population provided utility above and beyond the VA-only and DoD-only components. Recorded ILI activity for NC-VAMC/Lovell FHCC was more pronounced in the DoD component, likely due to pediatric data in this population. NC-VAMC/Lovell FHCC had two weeks of ILI activity exceeding both the Illinois State and East North Central Regional baselines, whereas Hines VAMC had one and Jesse Brown VAMC had zero.
Biosurveillance in a joint VA/DoD facility showed potential utility as a tool to improve surveillance and situational awareness in an area with Veteran, active duty and beneficiary populations. Based in part on the results of this pilot demonstration, both agencies have agreed to support the creation of a combined VA/DoD ESSENCE biosurveillance system which is now under development.
Radiological reports are a rich source of clinical data which can be mined to assist with biosurveillance of emerging infectious diseases. In addition to biosurveillance, radiological reports are an important source of clinical data for health service research. Pneumonias and other radiological findings on chest xray or chest computed tomography (CT) are one type of relevant finding to both biosurveillance and health services research. In this study we examined the ability of a Natural Language Processing system to accurately identify pneumonias and other lesions from within free-text radiological reports. The system encoded the reports in the SNOMED CT Ontology and then a set of SNOMED CT based rules were created in our Health Archetype Language aimed at the identification of these radiological findings and diagnoses. The encoded rule was executed against the SNOMED CT encodings of the radiological reports. The accuracy of the reports was compared with a Clinician review of the Radiological Reports. The accuracy of the system in the identification of pneumonias was high with a Sensitivity (recall) of 100%, a specificity of 98%, and a positive predictive value (precision) of 97%. We conclude that SNOMED CT based computable rules are accurate enough for the automated biosurveillance of pneumonias from radiological reports.
Event-based biosurveillance is a recognized approach to early warning and situational awareness of emerging health threats. In this study, we build upon previous human and animal health work to develop a new approach to plant pest and pathogen surveillance. We show that monitoring public domain electronic media for indications and warning of epidemics and associated social disruption can provide information about the emergence and progression of plant pest infestation or disease outbreak. The approach is illustrated using a case study, which describes a plant pest and pathogen epidemic in China and Vietnam from February 2006 to December 2007, and the role of ducks in contributing to zoonotic virus spread in birds and humans. This approach could be used as a complementary method to traditional plant pest and pathogen surveillance to aid global and national plant protection officials and political leaders in early detection and timely response to significant biological threats to plant health, economic vitality, and social stability. This study documents the inter-relatedness of health in human, animal, and plant populations and emphasizes the importance of plant health surveillance.
surveillance; indications; early warning; crop; social stability; economic vitality; planthopper; rice virus; waterfowl; one health
The Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-Based Epidemics, or ESSENCE II, uses syndromic and nontraditional health information to provide very early warning of abnormal health conditions in the National Capital Area (NCA). ESSENCE II is being developed for the Department of Defense Global Emerging Infections System and is the only known system to combine both military and civilian health care information for daily outbreak surveillance. The National Capital Area has a complicated, multijurisdictional structure that makes data sharing and integrated regional surveillance challenging. However, the strong military presence in all jurisdictions facilitates the collection of health care information across the region. ESSENCE II integrates clinical and nonclinical human behavior indicators as a means of identifying the abnormality as close to the time of onset of symptoms as possible. Clinical data sets include emergency room syndromes, private practice billing codes grouped into syndromes, and veterinary syndromes. Nonclinical data include absenteeism, nurse hotline calls, prescription medications, and over-the-counter self-medications. Correctly using information marked by varying degrees of uncertainty is one of the more challenging as pects of this program. The data (without personal identifiers) are captured in an electronic format, encrypted, archived, and processed at a secure facility. Aggregated information is then provided to users on secure Web sites. When completed, the system will provide automated capture, archiving, processing, and notification of abnormalities to epidemiologists and analysts. Outbreak detection methods currently include temporal and spatial variations of odds ratios, autoregressive modeling, cumulative summation, matched filter, and scan statistics. Integration of nonuniform data is needed to increase sensitivity and thus enable the earliest notification possible. The performance of various detection techniques was compared using results obtained from the ESSENCE II system.
Evaluation; Nontraditional; Surveillance; Syndromes; Test bed
BioSense is the US national automated biosurveillance system. Data regarding chief complaints and diagnoses are automatically pre-processed into 11 broader syndromes (e.g., respiratory) and 78 narrower sub-syndromes (e.g., asthma). The objectives of this report are to present the types of illness and injury that can be studied using these data and the frequency of visits for the syndromes and sub-syndromes in the various data types; this information will facilitate use of the system and comparison with other systems.
For each major data source, we summarized information on the facilities, timeliness, patient demographics, and rates of visits for each syndrome and sub-syndrome.
In 2008, the primary data sources were the 333 US Department of Defense, 770 US Veterans Affairs, and 532 civilian hospital emergency department facilities. Median times from patient visit to record receipt at CDC were 2.2 days, 2.0 days, and 4 hours for these sources respectively. Among sub-syndromes, we summarize mean 2008 visit rates in 45 infectious disease categories, 11 injury categories, 7 chronic disease categories, and 15 other categories.
We present a systematic summary of data that is automatically available to public health departments for monitoring and responding to emergencies.
The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (AFHSC-GEIS) has the mission of performing surveillance for emerging infectious diseases that could affect the United States (U.S.) military. This mission is accomplished by orchestrating a global portfolio of surveillance projects, capacity-building efforts, outbreak investigations and training exercises. In 2009, this portfolio involved 39 funded partners, impacting 92 countries. This article discusses the current biosurveillance landscape, programmatic details of organization and implementation, and key contributions to force health protection and global public health in 2009.
Disease surveillance for hepatitis C in the United States is limited by the occult nature of many of these infections, the large volume of cases, and limited public health resources. Through a series of discrete processes, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health modified its surveillance system in an attempt to improve timeliness and completeness of reporting and case follow-up of hepatitis C. These processes included clinician-based reporting, electronic laboratory reporting, deployment of a Web-based disease surveillance system, automated triage of pertinent data, and automated character recognition software for case-report processing. These changes have resulted in an increase in the timeliness of reporting.
Researchers working on the Department of Defense Global Emerging Infections System (DoD-GEIS) pilot system, the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-Based Epidemics (ESSENCE), have applied scan statistics for early outbreak detection using hoth traditional and nontraditional data sources. These sources include medical data indexed byInternational Classification of Disease, 9th Revision (ICD-9) diagnosis codes, as well as less-specific, but potentially timelier, indicators such as records of over-the-counter remedy sales and of school absenteeism. Early efforts employed the Kulldorff scan statistic as implemented in the SaTScan software of the National Cancer Institute. A key obstacle to this application is that the input data streams are typically based on time-varying factors, such as consumer behavior, rather than simply on the populations of the component subregions. We have used both modeling and recent historical data distributions to obtain background spatial distributions. Data analyses have provided guidance on how to condition and model input data to avoid excessive clustering. We have used this methodology in combining data sources for both retrospective studies of known outbreaks and surveillance of high-profile events of concern to local public health authorities. We have integrated the scan statistic capability into a Microsoft Access-based system in which we may include or exclude data sources, vary time windows separately for different data sources, censor data from subsets of individual providers or subregions, adjust the background computation method, and run retrospective or simulated studies.
Biosurveillance; Clustering; Kulldorff; Scan statistics
Visual analytics, a technique aiding data analysis and decision making, is a novel tool that allows for a better understanding of the context of complex systems. Public health professionals can greatly benefit from this technique since context is integral in disease monitoring and biosurveillance. We propose a graphical tool that can reveal the distribution of an outcome by time and age simultaneously.
We introduce and demonstrate multi-panel (MP) graphs applied in four different settings: U.S. national influenza-associated and salmonellosis-associated hospitalizations among the older adult population (≥65 years old), 1991–2004; confirmed salmonellosis cases reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for the general population, 2004–2005; and asthma-associated hospital visits for children aged 0–18 at Milwaukee Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, 1997–2006. We illustrate trends and anomalies that otherwise would be obscured by traditional visualization techniques such as case pyramids and time-series plots.
MP graphs can weave together two vital dynamics—temporality and demographics—that play important roles in the distribution and spread of diseases, making these graphs a powerful tool for public health and disease biosurveillance efforts.
The performance of disease surveillance systems is evaluated and monitored using a diverse set of statistical analyses throughout each stage of surveillance implementation. An overview of their main elements is presented, with a specific emphasis on syndromic surveillance directed to outbreak detection in resource-limited settings. Statistical analyses are proposed for three implementation stages: planning, early implementation, and consolidation. Data sources and collection procedures are described for each analysis.
During the planning and pilot stages, we propose to estimate the average data collection, data entry and data distribution time. This information can be collected by surveillance systems themselves or through specially designed surveys. During the initial implementation stage, epidemiologists should study the completeness and timeliness of the reporting, and describe thoroughly the population surveyed and the epidemiology of the health events recorded. Additional data collection processes or external data streams are often necessary to assess reporting completeness and other indicators. Once data collection processes are operating in a timely and stable manner, analyses of surveillance data should expand to establish baseline rates and detect aberrations. External investigations can be used to evaluate whether abnormally increased case frequency corresponds to a true outbreak, and thereby establish the sensitivity and specificity of aberration detection algorithms.
Statistical methods for disease surveillance have focused mainly on the performance of outbreak detection algorithms without sufficient attention to the data quality and representativeness, two factors that are especially important in developing countries. It is important to assess data quality at each state of implementation using a diverse mix of data sources and analytical methods. Careful, close monitoring of selected indicators is needed to evaluate whether systems are reaching their proposed goals at each stage.
We developed a framework to measure the timeliness of two data types—radiology and microbiology reports—for detection of diseases such as inhalational anthrax (IA) in a healthcare system. We measured the timeliness of a data type as the delay between patient registration in an emergency department (ED) and receipt of data type by a biosurveillance system. We also determined the lower and upper bounds of median delay time (LMDT and UMDT) for the two data types to be available for detection of a single IA case. Based on the data received from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health System, the LMDT time was 1.5 days and UMDT time was 6.4 days. The study provides a range of delay time for detection of a single IA case within a healthcare system, and it may benefit outbreak planning and outbreak model simulation.
The Department of Defense Military Health System operates a syndromic surveillance system that monitors medical records at more than 450 non-combat Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) worldwide. The Electronic Surveillance System for Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) uses both temporal and spatial algorithms to detect disease outbreaks. This study focuses on spatial detection and attempts to improve the effectiveness of the ESSENCE implementation of the spatial scan statistic by increasing the spatial resolution of incidence data from zip codes to street address level.
Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) was used as a test syndrome to develop methods to improve the spatial accuracy of detected alerts. Simulated incident clusters of various sizes were superimposed on real ILI incidents from the 2008/2009 influenza season. Clusters were detected using the spatial scan statistic and their displacement from simulated loci was measured. Detected cluster size distributions were also evaluated for compliance with simulated cluster sizes.
Relative to the ESSENCE zip code based method, clusters detected using street level incidents were displaced on average 65% less for 2 and 5 mile radius clusters and 31% less for 10 mile radius clusters. Detected cluster size distributions for the street address method were quasi normal and sizes tended to slightly exceed simulated radii. ESSENCE methods yielded fragmented distributions and had high rates of zero radius and oversized clusters.
Spatial detection accuracy improved notably with regard to both location and size when incidents were geocoded to street addresses rather than zip code centroids. Since street address geocoding success rates were only 73.5%, zip codes were still used for more than one quarter of ILI cases. Thus, further advances in spatial detection accuracy are dependant on systematic improvements in the collection of individual address information.
Summary: geWorkbench (genomics Workbench) is an open source Java desktop application that provides access to an integrated suite of tools for the analysis and visualization of data from a wide range of genomics domains (gene expression, sequence, protein structure and systems biology). More than 70 distinct plug-in modules are currently available implementing both classical analyses (several variants of clustering, classification, homology detection, etc.) as well as state of the art algorithms for the reverse engineering of regulatory networks and for protein structure prediction, among many others. geWorkbench leverages standards-based middleware technologies to provide seamless access to remote data, annotation and computational servers, thus, enabling researchers with limited local resources to benefit from available public infrastructure.
Availability: The project site (http://www.geworkbench.org) includes links to self-extracting installers for most operating system (OS) platforms as well as instructions for building the application from scratch using the source code [which is freely available from the project's SVN (subversion) repository]. geWorkbench support is available through the end-user and developer forums of the caBIG® Molecular Analysis Tools Knowledge Center, https://cabig-kc.nci.nih.gov/Molecular/forums/
Supplementary Information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Infectious disease surveillance is a primary public health function in resource-limited settings. In 2003, an electronic disease surveillance system (Alerta) was established in the Peruvian Navy with support from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center Detachment (NMRCD). Many challenges arose during the implementation process, and a variety of solutions were applied. The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss these issues.
This is a retrospective description of the Alerta implementation. After a thoughtful evaluation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the main challenges to implementation were identified and solutions were devised in the context of a resource-limited setting, Peru.
After four years of operation, we have identified a number of challenges in implementing and operating this electronic disease surveillance system. These can be divided into the following categories: (1) issues with personnel and stakeholders; (2) issues with resources in a developing setting; (3) issues with processes involved in the collection of data and operation of the system; and (4) issues with organization at the central hub. Some of the challenges are unique to resource-limited settings, but many are applicable for any surveillance system. For each of these challenges, we developed feasible solutions that are discussed.
There are many challenges to overcome when implementing an electronic disease surveillance system, not only related to technology issues. A comprehensive approach is required for success, including: technical support, personnel management, effective training, and cultural sensitivity in order to assure the effective deployment of an electronic disease surveillance system.
Since the terrorist attacks and anthrax release in 2001, almost $32 billion has been allocated to biodefense and biosurveillance in the USA alone. Surveillance in health care refers to the continual systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data. When attempting to detect agents of bioterrorism, surveillance can occur in several ways. Syndromic surveillance occurs by monitoring clinical manifestations of certain illnesses. Laboratory surveillance occurs by looking for certain markers or laboratory data, and environmental surveillance is the process by which the ambient air or environment is continually sampled for the presence of biological agents. This paper focuses on the ways by which we detect bioterrorism agents and the effectiveness of these systems.
Dengue, a potentially fatal disease, is spreading around the world. An estimated 2.5 billion people in tropical and subtropical regions are at risk. Early detection of outbreaks is crucial to prevention and control of dengue virus and other viruses. Case reporting may often take weeks or months. Therefore, researchers explored whether electronic sources of real-time information (such as Internet news outlets, health expert mailing lists, social media sites, and queries to online search engines) might be faster, and they were. Although information from unofficial sources should be interpreted with caution, when used in conjunction with traditional case reporting, real-time electronic surveillance can help public health authorities allocate resources in time to avert full-blown epidemics.
The current dengue epidemic in Latin America represents a major threat to health. However, surveillance of affected regions lacks timeliness and precision. We investigated real-time electronic sources for monitoring spread of dengue into new regions. This approach could provide timely estimates of changes in distribution of dengue, a critical component of prevention and control efforts.
dengue; viruses; communicable diseases; disease outbreaks; internet; population surveillance; electronic event–based surveillance; public health
A timely detection of outbreaks through surveillance is needed in order to prevent future pandemics. However, current surveillance systems may not be prepared to accomplish this goal, especially in resource limited settings. As data quality and timeliness are attributes that improve outbreak detection capacity, we assessed the effect of two interventions on such attributes in Alerta, an electronic disease surveillance system in the Peruvian Navy.
40 Alerta reporting units (18 clinics and 22 ships) were included in a 12-week prospective evaluation project. After a short refresher course on the notification process, units were randomly assigned to either a phone, visit or control group. Phone group sites were called three hours before the biweekly reporting deadline if they had not sent their report. Visit group sites received supervision visits on weeks 4 & 8, but no phone calls. The control group sites were not contacted by phone or visited. Timeliness and data quality were assessed by calculating the percentage of reports sent on time and percentage of errors per total number of reports, respectively.
Timeliness improved in the phone group from 64.6% to 84% in clinics (+19.4 [95% CI, +10.3 to +28.6]; p < 0.001) and from 46.9% to 77.3% on ships (+30.4 [95% CI, +16.9 to +43.8]; p < 0.001). Visit and control groups did not show significant changes in timeliness. Error rates decreased in the visit group from 7.1% to 2% in clinics (-5.1 [95% CI, -8.7 to -1.4]; p = 0.007), but only from 7.3% to 6.7% on ships (-0.6 [95% CI, -2.4 to +1.1]; p = 0.445). Phone and control groups did not show significant improvement in data quality.
Regular phone reminders significantly improved timeliness of reports in clinics and ships, whereas supervision visits led to improved data quality only among clinics. Further investigations are needed to establish the cost-effectiveness and optimal use of each of these strategies.