Syndromic surveillance: A local perspective
- Cite this article as:
- Mostashari, F. & Hartman, J. J Urban Health (2003) 80: i1. doi:10.1093/jurban/jtg042
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The promise of syndromic surveillance extends beyond early warning for bioterrorist attacks. Even if bioterrorism is first detected by an astute clinician, syndromic surveillance can help delineate the size, location, and tempo of the epidemic or provide reassurance that a large outbreak is not occurring when a single case or a small, localized cluster of an unusual illness is detected. More broadly, however, as public health and medicine proceed in our information age, the use of existing electronic data for public health surveillance will not appear to be an untested experiment for long. The challenge is to allow these systems to flower without burdening them with unrealistic expectations, centralized control, and unbalanced funding. To help syndromic surveillance systems reach their full potential, we need data standards, guidance to the developers of clinical information systems that will ensure data flow and interoperability, evaluations of best practices, links to improved laboratory diagnostics, regulations that protect privacy and data security, and reliable sustained funding for public health infrastructure to ensure the capacity to respond when the alarm sounds.