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D2.6 - Digital Resources for Disease Detection

on Wed, 04/24/2013 - 10:55

Increasing concern about the threat of pandemic influenza, emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism has stimulated efforts to improve infectious disease surveillance and develop greater capacity for early detection and control of outbreaks. In the last years, substantial resources have been invested in the development of sophisticated electronic reporting systems, based on non-specific syndromic signs and symptoms. These digital resources allow online information regarding epidemics to be mined, categorized, filtered and visualized. However, the efficacy and usefulness of syndromic surveillance systems is still being debated.

This report analyses the main digital resources available to detect and control infectious disease outbreaks, and evaluate their eventual contribute to the health management during epidemics.

In order to do so, a systematic literature review was carried out on both formal and informal digital resources for infectious disease surveillance. The authors examined the source of information, the manner in which they process and disseminate the information, and whether and to what extent these systems are capable of early detection and management of infectious disease outbreaks. The formal sources are essentially those based on syndromic surveillance. The informal sources reviewed include ProMED-mail, Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), HealthMap, MediSys, EpiSPIDER, BioCaster, H5N1 Google Earth mashup, Avian Influenza Daily Digest and Blog, Google flu trends and Argus.

The analysis confirmed the rapid growth in the availability of digital resources using both formal and informal methodology for monitoring infectious diseases. There is limited evidence to show that such resources actually help to detect outbreaks earlier than conventional methods. However, it has become increasing clear that they can be useful as decision-support tools for control of the outbreak. They can provide critical, timely information on the location and spread of the outbreak and predictions on its ultimate extent, making them invaluable for managing the epidemic. They can also play a crucial role in providing timely and valid information for risk communication.

Read the document online:
D2.6 - Digital Resources for Disease Detection