Detecting Outbreaks

Most people are closely aware of the daily health patterns of family members, close friends and even colleagues. We see each other in our shared spaces, and connect via phone calls, texts, emails, and social media on a daily basis. Knowledge of the health status of the important people in our lives is a fundamental aspect of our social interactions and helps us make more informed decisions regarding our own preventative health and lifestyle behaviors. Now imagine your circle of important people is the entire city of New York, and you are required to collect enough information daily to identify abnormal changes in morbidity (diseases) and mortality (deaths) across a number of high priority syndromes (a group of symptoms associated with a particular illness). This is the work of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). The system they developed and currently operate to complete this herculean data management task is called the syndromic surveillance system which is operated by a specialized unit of public health epidemiologists within the Surveillance Unit.

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