Health-Care Institutions Strike Back At Bioterrorism - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Health-Care Institutions Strike Back At Bioterrorism

Health officials look to real-time disease surveillance systems to fight bioterrorism.

Slowly but surely, public-health departments and hospitals in the United States are beginning to implement real-time disease surveillance systems to detect possible acts of bioterrorism. Such a system was rolled out in Utah just in time for the Winter Olympics, and it may soon be implemented at hospitals in other regions of the country.

In Salt Lake City hospitals and at other regional urgent-care facilities, the Real-Time Outbreak and Disease Surveillance System, developed by the University of Pittsburgh is being used in conjunction with a disease surveillance system developed before Sept. 11 by the state of Utah. "We were concerned about outbreaks of any diseases during the winter games," says Dr. Robert Rolfs, Utah state epidemiologist. But Utah's homegrown system lacks the ability to analyze in real-time patient complaints and symptom data that may indicate that a biological or chemical attack, or a naturally occurring disease outbreak, has taken place. "We became particularly concerned about real-time data analysis after the anthrax outbreak on the East Coast," Rolfs says.

The surveillance system also has been deployed in some facilities in western Pennsylvania. The Biomedical Security Institute, a joint venture between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon launched earlier this month to advance the nation's ability to detect and respond to disease outbreaks, is in discussions with a few other regions about transporting the surveillance system to their health-care systems, says Dr. Andrew Moore, co-director of the institute. (Go to the sidebar article, "Is A Nationwide Health-Data Network Possible?")

Although specific implementations can vary, in general the surveillance system works this way: All participating health-care facilities enter patient information, such as age, residence, and symptoms (but not names, to comply with privacy regulations) into the system, which is then transmitted to a central database over the Internet or direct lines. The system then mines patient data from all facilities in a region for unusual health-problem patterns or increases in complaints that could indicate a biological attack, such as anthrax, or a naturally occurring outbreak, like the flu. The system is one of several separate disease-surveillance projects under way at various universities, laboratories, and health-care providers that aim to help public-health officials--and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention--detect and respond to terrorist attacks quickly.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

11 Things IT Professionals Wish They Knew Earlier in Their Careers
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/6/2021
Time to Shift Your Job Search Out of Neutral
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/31/2021
Does Identity Hinder Hybrid-Cloud and Multi-Cloud Adoption?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  4/1/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Successful Strategies for Digital Transformation
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll