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      What is syndromic surveillance?

      MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report
      Bioterrorism, prevention & control, Communicable Diseases, Emerging, Disease Outbreaks, Humans, Population Surveillance, methods, United States

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          Abstract

          Innovative electronic surveillance systems are being developed to improve early detection of outbreaks attributable to biologic terrorism or other causes. A review of the rationale, goals, definitions, and realistic expectations for these surveillance systems is a crucial first step toward establishing a framework for further research and development in this area. This commentary provides such a review for current syndromic surveillance systems. Syndromic surveillance has been used for early detection of outbreaks, to follow the size, spread, and tempo of outbreaks, to monitor disease trends, and to provide reassurance that an outbreak has not occurred. Syndromic surveillance systems seek to use existing health data in real time to provide immediate analysis and feedback to those charged with investigation and follow-up of potential outbreaks. Optimal syndrome definitions for continuous monitoring and specific data sources best suited to outbreak surveillance for specific diseases have not been determined. Broadly applicable signal-detection methodologies and response protocols that would maximize detection while preserving scant resources are being sought. Stakeholders need to understand the advantages and limitations of syndromic surveillance systems. Syndromic surveillance systems might enhance collaboration among public health agencies, health-care providers, information-system professionals, academic investigators, and industry. However, syndromic surveillance does not replace traditional public health surveillance, nor does it substitute for direct physician reporting of unusual or suspect cases of public health importance.

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