With the presentation of the deadly virus Ebola on American soil the question of the value and/or importance of epidemiologic surveillance is almost moot. We reside in a global village and the potential for exposure on the part of a large swath of a population to a once exotic and limited ailment is real and ever-present.
Epidemiologic surveillance is the ongoing systematic collection, recording, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data reflecting the current health status of a community or population; integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those responsible for preventing and controlling disease and injury.
Public health surveillance should be considered a tool. It is used for the purpose of estimating a population’s health status and/or behavior. Public health surveillance is able to measure directly the current health status of a population as well as its need for medical interventions; and, finally, the effectiveness of such. This tool empowers government and health decision-makers; providing vital information that will afford better and more potent medical responses where necessary through the presentation of useful evidence. The aim is to have the ability to target resources and evaluate programs.