Usage and Data Collection Patterns for a Novel Web-Based Foodborne-Disease Surveillance System

Article excerpt

* The current national system of surveillance for foodborne and waterborne diseases is the CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System.

* It began in 1966 to collect and evaluate data regarding foodborne-disease outbreaks.

* In this system, state and local health departments have the main responsibility for locating and investigating foodborne-disease outbreaks.

* Many local health departments use a standard CDC form, and CDC evaluates the collected data to determine whether a specific food vehicle and etiologic agent have been confirmed for an outbreak.

* Under-reporting is a major hindrance to the surveillance of foodborne illnesses.

* The slow speed of the system is also a problem.

* The RUsick2 Internet forum was developed at the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center on the campus of Michigan State University.

* Initially, the forum was a Web-based system on which residents in a three-county pilot area could report syndromic foodborne disease.

* Residents who had sudden-onset vomiting or diarrhea and suspected their illness was food-related could access the forum to share and compare information.

* The purpose was to identify common food sources, food items, or other commonalities that might warrant an outbreak investigation by the local health department.

* A series of 14 data input screens asked visitors about

-- time of onset,

-- symptoms,

-- their four-day pre-illness food history,

-- food sources, and

-- information related to non-foodborne sources of common gastrointestinal illness. …