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E. coli Outbreak in New Jersey?
Date:5/22/2008

Public Health Agency's Community Health Surveillance System Detects

Emerging Pattern

NORTH BERGEN, N.J., May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Over the course of two hours on a recent Friday, 20 people arrived, one by one, for emergency care at the Palisades Medical Center here. Each separately complained of various gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea.

A coincidence? Or the harbinger of a brewing epidemic, potentially threatening a larger swath of the Garden State?

Fortunately, the onslaught of patients was actually part of a disaster drill conducted by the medical facility that also involved the Hudson Regional Health Commission, the public health agency serving parts of Northern New Jersey. The purported scenario was an E. coli outbreak at a local restaurant, and the patients were actually volunteers from a nearby high school pretending to be ill.

One goal of the emergency preparedness exercise was to give the medical facility and the regional public health agency experience using EpiCenter(TM), a community health surveillance system recently introduced by health data management specialists Health Monitoring Systems (http://www.hmsinc.com) and adopted by the Hudson Regional Health Commission and other public health agencies across the country. The EpiCenter system collects electronic data in real time from healthcare-providing organizations, such as hospital emergency department registrations, and then processes the information through advanced analytical techniques to identify unusual patterns emerging.

That early warning of developing threats to public health can give public health professionals a valuable head start in recognizing and managing disease spread and epidemic outbreaks, as well as possible bioterrorism, a surge in criminal assaults and even tainted street drugs.

In the North Bergen emergency preparedness exercise,
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SOURCE Health Monitoring Systems
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