Holtry RS, Hung LM, Lewis SH
Utility of essence surveillance in monitoring the H1N1 outbreak
Online Journal of Public Health Informatics
The Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-Based Epidemics (ESSENCE) enables health care practitioners to detect and monitor health indicators of public health importance. ESSENCE is used by public health departments in the National Capital Region (NCR); a cross-jurisdictional data sharing agreement has allowed cooperative health information sharing in the region since 2004. Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) in the NCR from 2008 are compared to those of 2009. Important differences in the rates, timing, and demographic composition of ILI visits were found. By monitoring a regional surveillance system, public health practitioners had an increased ability to understand the magnitude and character of different ILI outbreaks. This increased ability provided crucial community-level information on which to base response and control measures for the novel 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak. This report underscores the utility of automated surveillance systems in monitoring community-based outbreaks.