31 July 2013

2013 Award for Outstanding Student Abstract

The ‘Award for Outstanding Student Abstract’ opportunity was developed, and is being coordinated by the ISDS Research Committee. All students enrolled in an academic program (undergraduate, graduate, or equivalent) in a disease surveillance-related field are eligible, and encouraged to apply.

Two students will be selected and awarded:
  • An oral presentation slot to disseminate their innovative work;
  • Certificate of achievement;
  • Recognition on 2013 ISDS Conference materials, as well as at the Conference; and
  • Stipend (Complimentary: Conference registration and 2 nights at the Sheraton New Orleans, as well as up to $150 reimbursement for other travel expenses).

To be considered, please submit the following by Monday, September 9, 2013 (11:59pm ET):
  1. An abstract for the 2013 ISDS Conference: More information.
  2. Online application.

For more information on the student award, please click here.

More information on the 2013 ISDS Conference.

Important Upcoming Conference Dates and Deadlines
Webinar: Discover the 2013 ISDS Conference - August 7, 2013 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm ET
Abstract submission deadline - September 9, 2013 (11:59pm ET)
Student abstract award application deadline - September 9, 2013 (11:59pm ET)
Early registration deadline - October 7, 2013 (11:59pm ET)

29 July 2013

Participate in the 2013 ISDS Pre-Conference Workshops

Date: December 11, 2013
Location: Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, LA
Registration Information

The ISDS Pre-Conference Workshops are community-generated, professional development trainings designed to address the professional needs of the disease surveillance workforce. The four workshops (overview of each below) will take place on December 11th - the day prior to the two-day 2013 ISDS Conference

Track 1: Public Health Surveillance for Beginners
Description: This Workshop will provide exposure to key topics central to public health surveillance and serve to orient those who are new to the field. The objective of this Track is to "bridge the knowledge gap" in order to enable participants to better understand and apply public health data for informed and meaningful decision-making and to communicate outcomes or results. It includes the following: an overview of public health surveillance; demonstrations of syndromic surveillance systems and their integration with novel data sources (Emergency Medical Services (EMS) runs, school absenteeism, poison control, etc.); anomaly detection methods and utility (an inside look at algorithms and their parameter settings); investigation techniques (a "how to" approach, showing the integration of multiple data systems/sources); and communication to stakeholders (creation of surveillance reports and communicating findings). This Track is being developed based on feedback from participants who attended the 2012 ISDS Pre-Conference Workshops, and, as such, is sure to be a high quality training opportunity relevant to the practical needs of those who are new to public health surveillance.

Track 2: Public Health Surveillance and Policy Issues for Experts
Description: This Workshop will provide experienced public health surveillance professionals with a forum for learning and discussing current topics and policies essential to public health surveillance and an opportunity to collaborate with other experts in the field to develop practical, concrete products and tools. It will include the following: a panel discussion on non-communicable disease surveillance; a series of roundtable discussions, including disaster surveillance/mass gathering response; a follow-up discussion from the 2012 ISDS Conference on (re)defining situational awareness; and break-out sessions to discuss and summarize current policy topics, such as Meaningful Use (U.S.), International Health Regulations (2005), and data sharing. Ultimately, this Workshop is intended to leverage the collective expertise of the group to advance participants' understanding and practice and to allow for a high-quality and seamless translation of the knowledge gained in the Workshop within the participants' organizations. 

Track 3: Using R for Disease Surveillance
Description: The public health workforce (public health practitioners, healthcare providers, and academicians in research settings) require data, as well as analysis and visualization of that data, to enable and provide informed decision-making, whether clinically-based or policy-based. Continued budgetary restrictions and funding cuts have somewhat hindered the ability to purchase commercial products and applications; therefore, public health has a strong need for exposure to and training with open-source products and tools for data collection, analysis, and visualization. R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. It provides a variety of statistical and graphical techniques, and is extensible (http://www.r-project.org/). As an open-source product, R is freely available, and, thus, optimal for use in a variety of settings. This Workshop is a hands-on training in how to use R for epidemiology, disease surveillance and high-quality data visualizations. *Note: There will be pre-assignments sent to registrants prior to the Workshop in order to maximize time and to facilitate greater efficiency on the overall flow of the workshop. Additional online resources/tutorials will be provided and are highly recommended for registrants unfamiliar with the R language and environment.

Track 4: Introduction to Mapping for Disease Surveillance
Description: This Workshop is a hands-on training on using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)/mapping for disease surveillance. It will introduce participants to the basic concepts of GIS, give simple and functional tips for good cartography, and show examples of digital cartography and exploratory spatial data analysis. *Note: There may be pre-assignments sent to registrants prior to the Workshop in order to maximize time and to facilitate greater efficiency on the overall flow of the workshop. Additional online resources/tutorials will be provided and are highly recommended for registrants unfamiliar with GIS/mapping.

For more information, please visit the webpage.

24 July 2013

BioSense User Community: Overview and Transition

ISDS has been hosting a series of BioSense 2.0 User Community Calls throughout 2012 and 2013, the most recent of which was held on July 16. These calls provide an opportunity to discuss BioSense 2.0, ask questions, and hear responses from RTI, BioSense Governance, CDC and ASTHO. ISDS is now transitioning into a monthly BioSense User Group Meeting, the first of which will be held on Tuesday, August 20, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EDT (registration is now open).

The User Group Meetings will follow a similar format to prior Community Calls. At the July 16th call we received responses to technical questions (submitted during meeting registration) that covered topics ranging from accessing BioSense to best practices for on-boarding. Mike Alletto at RTI led us through the questions and responses with additional input from Yvonne Konnor (BioSense Governance Representative), Alan Davis (CDC), and Scott Gordon and Lindsay Strack from ASTHO.

Yvonne also provided us with an update from BioSense Governance, including emphasizing a continuing focus on two-way communication between users, developers, and CDC to increase sustainability and transparency.

One of our interesting open discussion questions focused on using syndromic surveillance to look at information from a specific event such as a marathon, wildfire, or sporting event. We heard some good feedback from participants in Ohio, Florida, and Rhode Island with useful tips including creating a new, unique acronym to use specifically for monitoring the intended event. Other users noted that the increasing use of dropdown menus in EHRs may negatively affect the ability to create unique acronyms since there is no space for a free text chief complaint.

If you are part of the BioSense 2.0 community and are interested in asking questions, discussing your experiences, and hearing from others, we hope you’ll join us in August!

Future 2013 Meeting Dates: August 20th, September 17th, October 15th, November 19th, December 17th

Written by: Becky Zwickl, MPH, ISDS Public Health Analyst

18 July 2013

Finalists for ISDS's 2013 'Awards for Outstanding Research Articles in Biosurveillance'

ISDS is proud to announce the finalists for the 2013 'Awards for Outstanding Research Articles in Biosurveillance' (see below), which are awarded in recognition of exceptional research literature in the field. ISDS members now have the opportunity to vote for the winners, which will be announced on August 6, 2013.

ISDS congratulates all of the finalists on their exemplary work!

For more information on the awards and selection process, please click here.

Finalists in the 'Impact on field of biosurveillance' category:

Enki DG, Noufaily A, Garthwaite PH, et al. Automated Biosurveillance Data from England and Wales, 1991-2011. Emerg Infect Dis. 2013;19(1):35–42. doi:10.3201/eid1901.120493.
Abstract: Twenty years of data provide valuable insights for the design of large automated outbreak detection systems., Outbreak detection systems for use with very large multiple surveillance databases must be suited both to the data available and to the requirements of full automation. To inform the development of more effective outbreak detection algorithms, we analyzed 20 years of data (1991–2011) from a large laboratory surveillance database used for outbreak detection in England and Wales. The data relate to 3,303 distinct types of infectious pathogens, with a frequency range spanning 6 orders of magnitude. Several hundred organism types were reported each week. We describe the diversity of seasonal patterns, trends, artifacts, and extra-Poisson variability to which an effective multiple laboratory-based outbreak detection system must adjust. We provide empirical information to guide the selection of simple statistical models for automated surveillance of multiple organisms, in the light of the key requirements of such outbreak detection systems, namely, robustness, flexibility, and sensitivity.

Paterson BJ, Durrheim DN. The remarkable adaptability of syndromic surveillance to meet public health needs. Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health. 2013;3(1):41–47. doi:10.1016/j.jegh.2012.12.005.
Abstract: The goal of syndromic surveillance is the earlier detection of epidemics, allowing a timelier public health response than is possible using traditional surveillance methods. Syndromic surveillance application for public health purposes has changed over time and reflects a dynamic evolution from the collection, interpretation of data with dissemination of data to those who need to act, to a more holistic approach that incorporates response as a core component of the surveillance system. Recent infectious disease threats, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian influenza (H5N1) and pandemic influenza (H1N1), have all highlighted the need for countries to be rapidly aware of the spread of infectious diseases within a region and across the globe. The International Health Regulations (IHR) obligation to report public health emergencies of international concern has raised the importance of early outbreak detection and response. The emphasis in syndromic surveillance is changing from automated, early alert and detection, to situational awareness and response. Published literature on syndromic surveillance reflects the changing nature of public health threats and responses. Syndromic surveillance has demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to rapidly shifting public health needs. This adaptability makes it a highly relevant public health tool.

Schirmer PL, Lucero-Obusan CA, Benoit SR, et al. Dengue Surveillance in Veterans Affairs Healthcare Facilities, 2007–2010. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2013;7(3):e2040. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002040.
Abstract: Dengue is an important tropical disease seen throughout the world in tropical climate zones and is spread by Aedes mosquitoes. Most cases of dengue in the continental US are imported. In July 2009 through 2010, dengue virus was found to be circulating in Key West, Florida (FL). Dengue virus has been transmitted in Puerto Rico (PR) for many years. This study used electronic and manual surveillance systems to identify dengue cases in VA healthcare facilities and clinically compared dengue cases in Veterans presenting for care in PR as well as in FL. We found that FL dengue cases were similar to those in PR and that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined confirmed/probable cases were more likely to be hospitalized within our VA system, and have either lower platelet or white blood cell counts than suspected cases. During July 2009–2010, FL cases were more likely to be tested for dengue and have intensive care admissions, but had lower hospitalization rates and headache or eye pain symptoms compared to PR cases. No one method of capturing dengue cases was perfect. It is important to educate healthcare workers about this disease to help with direct patient care as well as surveillance.

Stoto MA. The Effectiveness of U.S. Public Health Surveillance Systems for Situational Awareness during the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic: A Retrospective Analysis. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(8):e40984. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040984.
Abstract: Background: The 2009 H1N1 outbreak provides an opportunity to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of current U.S. public health surveillance systems and to identify implications for measuring public health emergency preparedness. Methodology/Principal Findings: We adopted a "triangulation" approach in which multiple contemporary data sources, each with different expected biases, are compared to identify time patterns that are likely to reflect biases versus those that are more likely to be indicative of actual infection rates. This approach is grounded in the understanding that surveillance data are the result of a series of decisions made by patients, health care providers, and public health professionals about seeking and providing health care and about reporting cases to health authorities. Although limited by the lack of a gold standard, this analysis suggests that children and young adults are over-represented in many pH1N1 surveillance systems, especially in the spring wave. In addition, the nearly two-month delay between the Northeast and the South in the Fall peak in some surveillance data seems to at least partially reflect regional differences in concerns about pH1N1rather than real differences in pH1N1 infection rates. Conclusions/Significance: Although the extent of the biases suggested by this analysis cannot be known precisely, the analysis identifies underlying problems with surveillance systems – in particular their dependence on patient and provider behavior, which is influenced by a changing information environment – that could limit situational awareness in future public health emergencies. To improve situational awareness in future health emergencies, population-based surveillance systems such as telephone surveys of representative population samples and seroprevalence surveys in well-defined population cohorts are needed.

Finalists in the 'Scientific Achievement' category:

Conway M, Dowling JN, Chapman WW. Using chief complaints for syndromic surveillance: A review of chief complaint based classifiers in North America. Journal of Biomedical Informatics. 2013. doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2013.04.003.
Abstract: A major goal of Natural Language Processing in the public health informatics domain is the automatic extraction and encoding of data stored in free text patient records. This extracted data can then be utilized by computerized systems to perform syndromic surveillance. In particular, the chief complaint—a short string that describes a patient's symptoms—has come to be a vital resource for syndromic surveillance in the North American context due to its near ubiquity. This paper reviews fifteen systems in North America—at the city, county, state and federal level—that use chief complaints for syndromic surveillance.

Farrington CP, Whitaker HJ, Unkel S, Pebody R. Correlated infections: quantifying individual heterogeneity in the spread of infectious diseases. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2013;177(5):474–486.
Abstract: In this paper, we propose new methods for investigating the extent of heterogeneity in effective contact rates relevant to the transmission of infections. These methods exploit the correlations between ages at infection for different infections within individuals. The methods are developed for serological surveys, which provide accessible individual data on several infections, and are applied to a wide range of infections. We find that childhood infections are often highly correlated within individuals in early childhood, with the correlations persisting into adulthood only for infections sharing a transmission route. We discuss 2 applications of the methods: 1) to making inferences about routes of transmission when these are unknown or uncertain and 2) to estimating epidemiologic parameters such as the basic reproduction number and the critical immunization threshold. Two examples of such applications are presented: elucidating the transmission route of polyomaviruses BK and JC and estimating the basic reproduction number and critical immunization coverage of varicella-zoster infection in Belgium, Italy, Poland, and England and Wales. We speculate that childhood correlations stem from confounding of different transmission routes and represent heterogeneity in childhood circumstances, notably nursery-school attendance. In contrast, it is suggested that correlations in adulthood are route-specific.

Shaman J, Karspeck A. Forecasting seasonal outbreaks of influenza. PNAS. 2012;109(50):20425–20430. doi:10.1073/pnas.1208772109.

Abstract: Influenza recurs seasonally in temperate regions of the world; however, our ability to predict the timing, duration, and magnitude of local seasonal outbreaks of influenza remains limited. Here we develop a framework for initializing real-time forecasts of seasonal influenza outbreaks, using a data assimilation technique commonly applied in numerical weather prediction. The availability of real-time, web-based estimates of local influenza infection rates makes this type of quantitative forecasting possible. Retrospective ensemble forecasts are generated on a weekly basis following assimilation of these web-based estimates for the 2003–2008 influenza seasons in New York City. The findings indicate that real-time skillful predictions of peak timing can be made more than 7 wk in advance of the actual peak. In addition, confidence in those predictions can be inferred from the spread of the forecast ensemble. This work represents an initial step in the development of a statistically rigorous system for real-time forecast of seasonal influenza.

*This award was developed and is coordinated by the ISDS Research Committee.