When you get sick with an infectious disease like Salmonella or the flu, your healthcare provider or the laboratory that conducted the test on you is required to report your illness to the county or state public health department. In Arizona, almost 100 different diseases are reportable. Public health disease detectives investigate reports of diseases to figure out whether an outbreak is occurring, find out whether a specific source is causing diseases, and put measures in place to stop the spread of disease.
For decades, public health disease detectives have used standardized investigation forms to look into cases of disease. Over the years, these forms have been integrated into electronic disease surveillance systems, which give us an easier way of organizing and analyzing information. In Arizona, public health agencies use a system called MEDSIS for electronic surveillance of most infectious diseases.
During the last few years, with input from public health partners at the local level, state epidemiology and information technology staff, have worked hard to enhance MEDSIS in order to improve statewide ability to monitor and investigate infectious diseases. This has allowed for rapid improvements to the system in response to emerging infectious disease threats. For example, when faced with threats of Ebola or Zika virus infection, we’ve been able to rapidly upgrade the system to include electronic investigation forms into MEDSIS so our disease detectives can utilize electronic tools for investigations.
Thanks to input from partners, and hard work from our Office of Infectious Disease Services and Information Technology staff, we have rapid, electronic means of organizing the critical information needed to protect the health of Arizonans. You can check out a short video about how important electronic disease surveillance is to public health here.