In a word, surveillance. Most people think of public health as equating to preventative medicine – getting vaccines, washing hands, cleaning up garbage. But the oft overlooked aspect of public health is the effective use of timely and accurate epidemiology. This can make “predicting” a pandemic less of a mystical game of darts, and a more predictable (and hopefully reliable) science. Preventing a devastating disease outbreak is not about seeing the bad coming before it happens, but getting in early to stop the bad from becoming worse. With the explosion of new technologies and social media our ability to track the spread of disease is greatly strengthened. Please take the time to explore the links posted on this website to learn more about the important role that epidemiology and new technologies will play in future public health efforts.
A Cisco TelePresence videoconference with Dr. Ruotao Wang provided an insightful look into how China monitors and controls epidemics. With the 2003 SARS epidemic, China learned a series of lessons that highlight the importance of early detection and response, in conjunction with open and strong communication between all parties. Since 2003, the country has implemented a real-time web-based system, which allows any infectious disease identified at the clinic or hospital level to be reported on the internet within 6-24 hours. Dr. Wang’s talk raises several discussion points concerning global surveillance of outbreaks:
In your opinion, what additional tools can be used to monitor infectious diseases?
How do surveillance methods vary from country to country?
What actors do you think are essential at the local and global level to monitor and control an epidemic?