Microbe: Are We Ready for the Next Plague?

By Alan P. Zelicoff; Michael Bellomo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
A NEW WEAPON IN THE FIGHT
Since early 1999, the City of Lubbock Department of Health (DOH) in Texas has evaluated several syndrome-based disease surveillance systems. A “syndrome” is not a diagnosis, of course, but rather a concise description of the symptoms (i.e., what the patient complains of when visiting the doctor) and signs (i.e., what the doctor finds on examination). The very thoughtful people at the City of Lubbock DOH hypothesized that by using syndrome-based surveillance instead of the traditional disease-based systems, they could cost-effectively address the major responsibilities of public health departments that have been laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those responsibilities include:
Preventing epidemics and the spread of disease Protecting against environmental hazards
Preventing injuries
Promoting and encouraging healthy behaviors and mental health
Responding to disasters and assisting communities in recovery
Ensuring the quality and accessibility of health services

In theory, a syndrome-based disease surveillance system (SBDSS), by virtue of its timely reporting capabilities and volume of information flows, could assist in meeting these central public health responsibilities. In practice, however, the underlying technical features, scientific approach, and ease-of-use design of each SBDSS is dramatically different across the dozens of systems currently in existence. Some of these systems have been imple-

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