Surveillance of Disease

Means Surveillance of Disease

Surveillance of disease means the exercise of continuous scrutiny and watchfulness over the distri¬bution and spread of infections and the related factors, with sufficient accuracy and completeness to provide the basis for effective control. This modern concept includes three main features:

  • the systematic collection of all relevant data
  • the orderly consolidation and evaluation of these data;
  • the prompt dissemination of the results to those who need to know, particularly those who are in a position to take action.

The surveillance of communicable diseases has two main objectives. The first objective is the recog¬nition of acute problems that demand immediate action. For example, the recognition of an outbreak of a major epidemic infection such as cholera or the fresh introduction of it into a previously uninfected area, must be recognized promptly so that infection may be confined to the smallest possible area in the shortest possible time. Second, surveillance is used to provide a broad assessment of specific problems in order to discern long-term trends and epidemi¬ological patterns, to guide and monitor interventions, and finally to assess their impact. Thus, surveillance provides the scientific basis for ascertaining the major public health problems in an area, thereby serving as a guide for planning, implementation and assessment of programmes for the control of communicable disease.
The techniques of surveillance are now being applied to the control of non-infectious disease (see below):

  • environmental hazards associated with atmos¬pheric pollution, ionizing radiation and road traffic accidents;
  • diseases such as cancer, atheroma and other degenerative diseases;

social problems such as drug addiction, juvenile delinquency and commercial sex work

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