January 21, 2010 By Corey McKenna
With just a little adjustment of an existing Web-based disease surveillance system, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) was able to track incidences of H1N1 across the state, cut down on reporting errors and respond much more quickly.
The Illinois National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (I-NEDSS) allowed the IDPH and local health departments to monitor the symptoms hospitals were seeing, determine which of those symptoms met the case definition for H1N1 infection, and encourage the public to take precautions to stay healthy.
In the past, health-care providers and other local agencies mailed reports to the local health departments and the IDPH. This process led to reporting errors, redundant data entry and long delays in information reaching the IDPH.
The system tracks information on patients' symptoms, hospitalization history, where they might have been infected, where they have traveled and if anyone else in the same household or close contacts have become ill. Health-care providers and local governments enter the data into a Web interface, while information from labs is typically sent directly to the system.
The IDPH and local health departments can run reports looking at trend data, to get an understanding of the disease's transmission filtered by ZIP code, county, symptoms and other factors.
For more information on the Illinois Disease Surveillance System, go to Emergency Management's Web site.
Photo courtesy of James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.