25 September 2014

From ISID: Ebola Safety Training Course Travel Grants

Dear Colleague,

In response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, ISID has searched for ways to assist the people most affected. We are pleased to announce that we are sponsoring a limited number of travel grants to individuals who are attending one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Ebola Safety Training Courses. The courses will help prepare healthcare personnel to provide medical care to Ebola patients in an established Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).

The first CDC Ebola Safety Training Course starts on Oct 6, 2014 and the schedule currently extends through the end of this year. The courses are open to healthcare workers from all over the world and are being offered free of charge, but participants are responsible for paying for their own travel to the course in Alabama. Full information on the CDC course: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/safety-training-course/index.html

Only individuals who have been accepted to the CDC Ebola Safety Training Course and who will deploy to West Africa after completion of the course will be eligible for ISID funding. Travel grants of $500 each will be awarded to US residents and $1000 to residents of other countries. For more information on the ISID CDC Ebola Safety Training travel grant please go to: http://www.isid.org/grants/grant_ebola_training_travel.shtml

Also, I hope that you are aware of the excellent coverage that our program, ProMED, has provided in daily updates on the Ebola outbreak. You can sign up for ProMED alerts for free at: http://www.promedmail.org.

Britta Lassmann, MD
ISID Program Director

Larry Madoff, MD
Editor, ProMED-mail

Jon Cohen, MD
ISID President

19 September 2014

Surveillance for Emerging Infectious Diseases - A Letter from ISDS Board of Directors' President Richard Hopkins

In case we needed any reminding, new infectious disease threats keep emerging, as evidenced by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), chikungunya in the western hemisphere, and Ebola in West Africa. As surveillance professionals, we are likely to be looked to for data to support detection and response efforts, but also for advice as to where strategic investments in surveillance should be made in the course of an epidemic to support the response.  Deciding on the optimal surveillance strategy requires the advice of a seasoned surveillance practitioner, but also an understanding of the goals of the outbreak response and of the control measures being put into place.  The system needs to generate the information that is needed for decision-making by those leading the response, in time to be useful.

There are several important tasks for the surveillance function — all of course in support of more effective prevention and control:

— recognize the introduction of an infectious agent into a new population as early as possible.
— for diseases with a case-by-case public health response, identify every case promptly so that control measures can be taken
— identify the population groups at greatest risk of infection, of disease, and of severe disease or death
— monitor population impact of severe as well as mild disease
— monitor the geographic distribution, size, trajectory and end of the outbreak, epidemic or pandemic that may result from an introduction
— help to determine whether control measures are being effective

Some kinds of important questions probably can’t be answered through surveillance, but instead would be answered through focused case and contact investigations during outbreaks, or by planned cohort, cross-sectional or case-control studies.  For example, when in the natural course of infection and illness are people infectious to others?  How many asymptomatic infections are occurring?

The tools we have at hand to accomplish surveillance goals are diverse, and the right mix of these tools will vary depending on the disease, the epidemiologic situation, and the stage of the event:

— individual case reports of suspected cases from clinicians, both through the reportable disease mechanism and as clinician calls to public health authorities about unusual or alarming cases of disease
— laboratory reports from clinical laboratories, including reference laboratories, and from public health laboratories, either of increased detection of the condition of interest or of inability to characterize certain infections
— notifications of or queries about apparent disease outbreaks, by any of a wide variety of reporters: physicians, school nurses, child care center operators, organizers of group events, news media reporters, etc.
— increased chatter or mention of certain symptoms or diseases on blogs, internet news sites, social media sites, etc
— numbers of deaths recorded with certain causes of death mentioned on the death certificate
— numbers of visits to sentinel practices with a syndrome suggesting the presence of the emerging pathogen
— number of hospital admissions, or ICU admissions, with a syndrome suggesting the presence of the emerging pathogen, or with a suggestive admitting diagnosis
— numbers of visits to emergency departments, urgent care centers and other sites participating in syndromic surveillance, either with a syndrome suggesting the presence of the emerging pathogen or with mention of the name of the pathogen in free-text chief complaint or diagnostic fields.

For all these tools, it is easiest to recognize cases of an emerging infection if the disease caused by the infectious agent has clinical characteristics that make it distinctive, or if there is a specific laboratory test.  Detection is also aided, early in an event, if a specific unusual travel history or other exposure is associated with likelihood of illness.  The more generic the symptoms are — which is especially likely early in the illness — the harder it will be to detect likely cases by presenting illness alone, and either a specific exposure history or laboratory testing will be necessary to detect likely cases.  Even with fairly generic symptoms, however — as is the case with the syndrome of influenza-like illness — tallying of healthcare visits by syndrome in comparison to a baseline can be helpful in monitoring the size, scope and direction of an established epidemic.  Alternatively, surveillance can be focused on fully-developed disease which is more clinically distinctive, but this has a cost in sensitivity and timeliness of case and outbreak detection.

The underlying point of this little essay is that the optimal surveillance strategy for an emerging infection will depend on the disease's clinical and epidemiologic characteristics, the current stage of the outbreak, the control strategy that needs to be supported, and the relative costs of missing true significant events and of investigating large numbers of unimportant events.   The optimal strategy will depend on the desired balance among sensitivity, positive predictive value, and timeliness (whether for cases or for outbreaks).  These three are always in tension with each other.  Optimizing one of these attributes leads to compromises in at least one of the others, unless there is significant system change.  Those in charge of the response to a threat from an emerging pathogen, with a given set of surveillance systems available to them, will need to decide what the desired balance is between high sensitivity (with its cost of false alarms), high positive predictive value (with its costs of decreased sensitivity and slower detection) and increased timeliness (with its costs in both decreased positive predictive value and decreased sensitivity).  

Improvements in key characteristics of surveillance systems can decrease the danger from these tradeoffs. For example, implementing electronic laboratory reporting can improve timeliness of case detection with little or no cost in sensitivity or positive predictive value, as can implementing electronic (as opposed to manual) syndromic surveillance.  New diagnostic tests that can be performed at the bedside, or even in the field by EMTs, can in theory improve all three parameters, depending on how reliable they are under bedside or field conditions.

Richard Hopkins
ISDS Board of Directors' President

18 September 2014

Upcoming NAACHO Webinar: Health IT & Disaster Preparedness

The National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health invites you to join them for their September webinar:
  • Topic: “Health IT & Disaster Preparedness”
  • Presenter: Dr. Jin Ping Ying, CEO of Addabbo Community Health Center & Jason Pomaski, Assistant Vice President of Technology, Community Health Network
  • Day: September 30, 2014
  • Time: 1:00 PM ET
  • Link: https://ncdmph.adobeconnect.com/_a1137435577/dhit/
This event coincides with the conclusion of National Preparedness Month and is held onNational PrepareAthon! Day. Celebrate the National PrepareAthon! Day by joining us in this interesting and interactive discussion.
PDF Version of the Invitation: Hand Out for Health IT

17 September 2014

2014 Pre-Conference Trainings

An In-Depth Look at Track 1: 
Biosurveillance for Beginners

Date/Time: December 9, 2014 - 8:00am - 4:15pm

Location: Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, PA

Target Audience
The target audience of this trainings is healthcare  and public health professionals new to biosurveillance practice, as well as graduate students ad researchers interested in obtaining a better understanding of biosurveillance.

This training will provide exposure to key topics central to biosurveillance and serve to orient those who are new to the field. the objective of Track 1 is to "bridge the knowledge gap" 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 an overview of biosurveillance, as well as demonstrations of the integration of novel data sources (emergency department chief complaints, emergency medical services, school absenteeism and poison control center calls) with syndromic surveillance systems and their application in daily biosurveillance practice. .Track 1 is being developed based on feedback from participants who attended the 2013 ISDS Pre-Conference Workshops; therefore, it is sure to be a high quality training opportunity relevant to the practical needs of those who are new to biosurveillance.

Learn more about the 2014 ISDS Pre-Conference Trainings here.

16 September 2014

CUGH Letter from Executive Director re: Ebola Outbreak

Dear Friend of CUGH,
The Ebola crisis in West Africa is rapidly worsening. As of the writing of this note, over 3,500 people have been infected with the virus and over 1,700 people have been killed. Alarmingly, the disease is spreading into densely populated urban areas. 

There is an acute shortage of medical supplies, experienced healthcare workers, and funds in the region. Doctors without Borders has been bravely shouldering the greatest responsibility to not only care for those infected with Ebola, but also treat people affected with the numerous other diseases and health challenges in this, one of the poorest regions of the world. 

We at CUGH are trying to help MSF and USAID identify individuals with the experience and skills needed to stop the spread of this virus and provide essential medical care in the affected countries. Please see MSF's request by clicking on this link  and USAID's request by clicking on this link  and share these with your colleagues widely. Help us identify individuals who can address this crisis before it spreads much further and advocate for greater funding to purchase essential supplies. 

We have also been engaging with the State Department and other US government agencies to address this crisis. Please see my  Op-Ed in the Toronto Star on a civil-military humanitarian relief effort to urgently save lives and stop the spread of this deadly disease.

Thank you for your assistance.
Best wishes,
Keith Martin, MD
Executive Director
Consortium of Universities for Global Health

15 September 2014

2014 Pre-Conference Trainings

An In-Depth Look at Track 3: 
Introduction to R for Biosurveillance

Date/Time: December 9, 2014 - 8:00am - 4:15pm

Location: Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, PA

Target Audience
The target audience of this trainings is healthcare providers, public health practitioners, graduate students and researchers.

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 (http://www.r-project.org/).  It provides a variety of statistical and graphical techniques and is extensible. As an open-source product, R is freely available, making it optimal for use in a variety of settings. This training is a hands-on introduction to R for epidemiology, biosurveillance, and high-quality data visualizations.

Learn more about the 2014 ISDS Pre-Conference Trainings here.

12 September 2014

ISDS would like to thank all those who answered the call to be a part of the exciting 2014 ISDS Conference program by submitting an abstract for presentation at the upcoming Conference!

2014 Abstract Submission Overview

We received a total of 265 submitted abstracts for the 2014 ISDS Conference. 

Abstracts were submitted in four different categories: 

  • Analytics/Methodologies: 50 Submissions
  • Informatics: 44 Submissions
  • Policy: 14 Submissions
  • Practice: 98 Submissions

As expected most authors opted to submit for Oral Presentation (189 abstracts) - 21 of which were Lightning Talks, with 64 submitting for Poster, 7 for Panel, and 5 for Roundtable presentation. 

Authors from 33 different countries submitted abstracts: 

Abstract Review
We are now into the abstract review period. During this time, each abstract will be rated by at least three volunteer reviewers – an exceptional group of experts and seasoned ISDS Conference presenters. Acceptance decisions will be based on judgments of relevance, originality, methodology, and quality. Notifications will be sent to contact authors by October 8, 2014.

To find out more about the 2014 ISDS Conference, please visit: http://www.syndromic.org/annual-conference/2014-isds-conference.

Lauren Johnson, ISDS Program Coordinator, ljohnson@syndromic.org

03 September 2014

Brookings Event - The State of the Mobile Economy: Innovation, Investment and Economic Impact around the World

The State of the Mobile Economy: Innovation, Investment and Economic Impact around the World

Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 10:00 - 11:30 am
The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium
1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20045

According to recent estimates, the global mobile economy now totals $1.6 trillion and industry revenues are expected to rise to $2 trillion by 2017. But the surge of economic growth driven by mobile technology has been uneven around the world – some countries are experiencing unprecedented growth in their mobile ecosystems while others have not. What is behind this incongruity? What societal and regulatory factors foster innovation? How does a country’s legal and patent protection create an environment for entrepreneurs? Why are some countries propelling their mobile economies forward while others languish?

On September 10, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings will host an event on mobile innovation, investment, and invention around the world. Discussion will center on significant differences across nations in how much they invest in innovation, create new ideas, and provide legal protections that are important for small inventors and mobile entrepreneurs. Brookings Vice President Darrell West will also share findings from a forthcoming paper that identifies which nations excel at investing in research and development and patent protections.  Discussion will also focus on attitudinal data from 17 countries about mobile invention and its relationship to economic growth.

This event is part of the Mobile Economy Project and will be live webcast. Join the conversation on Twitter at #TechCTI.


Moderator: Darrell West
Vice President and Director, Governance Studies
The Brookings Institution
Derrick Brent
Associate General Counsel
Todd Dickinson
Former Executive Director
American Intellectual Property Law Association
Keith Mallinson
Wise Harbor
Deanna Tanner Okun
Adduci, Mastriani & Schaumberg LLP

02 September 2014

Abstract Submission Deadline Extended

New Deadline: September 9, 2014 at 11:59 PM

ISDS announces a deadline extension for abstract submission for the 2014 ISDS Conference. The new FINAL DEADLINE for abstract submission is Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 11:59 PM US EDT. No further extensions will be granted past this date.

Details On submission types and tract descriptions may be fund on the ISDS website here: http://www.syndromic.org/annual-conference/2014-isds-conference/abstract-submission

Take advantage of this 6-day extension to finalize your submissions for the opportunity to present your work to an international audience at the 2014 ISDS Conference this December 10-11th.

Ready to submit an abstract right now? Follow this link to go directly to the submission page: http://isds2014.abstractcentral.com

Learn more about the 2014 ISDS conference being held December 10-11, 2014 with Pre-Conference Trainings on December 9, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, PA on the ISDS website here: http://www.syndromic.org/annual-conference/2014-isds-conference