Using Syndromic Surveillance Alert Protocols for Epidemiologic Response in Georgia

How to Cite

Borroto, R., Williamson, B., Pitcher, P., Ballester, L., Smith, W., Soetebier, K., & Drenzek, C. (2017). Using Syndromic Surveillance Alert Protocols for Epidemiologic Response in Georgia. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 9(1).


ObjectiveDescribe how the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) usessyndromic surveillance to initiate review by District Epidemiologists(DEs) to events that may warrant a public health response (1).IntroductionDPH uses its State Electronic Notifiable Disease SurveillanceSystem (SendSS) Syndromic Surveillance (SS) Module to collect,analyze and display results of emergency department patient chiefcomplaint data from hospitals throughout Georgia.MethodsDPH prepares a daily SS report, based upon the analysis ofdaily visits to 112 Emergency Department (EDs). The visits areclassified in 33 syndromes. Queries of chief complaint and dischargediagnosis are done using the internal query capability of SendSS-SSand programming in SAS/BASE. Charting of the absolute countsor percentage of ED visits by syndromes is done using the internalcharting capability of SendSS-SS. A daily SS report includes thefollowing sections:Statewide Emergency Department Visitsby Priority Syndromes(Bioterrorism, BloodyRespiratory,FeverRespiratory, FeverChest, FeverFluAdmit, FeverFluDeaths,VeryIll, andPoxRashFever, Botulism, Poison, BloodyDiarrhea,BloodyVomit, FeverGI, ILI, FeverFlu, RashFever, Diarrhea,Vomit).Statewide Flag Analysis: Is intended to detect statewideflags, by using theChartscapability in SendSS SS.Possible caseswith presumptive diagnosis of potentially notifiable diseases: Isintended to provide early-warning to the DEs of possible cases thatare reportable to public health immediately or within 7 days usingqueries in the Chief Complaint and Preliminary Diagnosis fields ofSendSS-SS.Possible clusters of illness: Since any cluster of illnessmust be reported immediately to DPH, this analysis is aimed atquerying and identifying possible clusters of patients with similarsymptoms (2).Possible travel-related illness: Is intended to identifypatients with symptoms and recent travel history.Other events ofinterest: Exposures to ill patients in institutional settings (e.g. chiefcomplaint indicates that other children in the daycare have similarsymptoms).Trend Analysis: Weekly analysis of seasonality andtrends of 14 syndromes. Finally, specific events are notified to andreviewed by the 18 DEs, who follow up by contacting the InfectionPreventionists of the hospitals to identify the patients using medicalrecords or other hospital-specific identification numbers and followup on the laboratory test results.ResultsSince 05/15/2016, 12 travel-related illnesses, 29 vaccine-preventable diseases, 14 clusters, and 3 chemical exposures havebeen notified to DEs. For instance, a cluster of chickenpox in childrenwas identified after the DE contacted the Infection Preventionist ofa hospital, who provided the DE with the laboratory results and thephysician notes about the symptoms of the patients. These actionshave resulted in earlier awareness of single cases or cluster of illness,prompt reporting of notifiable diseases, and successful interactionbetween DEs and health care providers. In addition, SS continues totrack the onset, peak, and decline of seasonal illnesses.ConclusionsThe implementation of SS in the State of Georgia is helping withthe timely detection and early responses to disease events and couldprove useful in reducing the disease burden caused by a bioterroristattack.
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