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Web-Based System Efficient At Detecting Disease Outbreaks Among Preschoolers

Update Date: Oct 12, 2014 12:37 AM EDT

A computerized surveillance system that allows preschools and child care centers to report illness to local public health departments could improve the detection of disease outbreaks, according to a new study. 

"For example, if certain child care centers are reporting the beginning of stomach flu (vomiting and diarrhea), other centers can start taking steps to thoroughly clean to kill any viruses before symptoms occur or before a major outbreak takes place," said Andrew N. Hashikawa, MD, FAAP, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at University of Michigan, in the press release.

Dr. Hashikawa further added that  if child care providers see that larger centers in their community are reporting flu-like illness, they can use the data to emphasize to parents the need to have their children immunized against influenza sooner rather than later. 

Children under age 5 are generally more prone to diseases than school aged children and adults due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Often they are responsible for spreading the viruses to the rest of the community. 

"Most illness reporting methods used by many public health departments are slow, paper-based and inefficient," Dr. Hashikawa noted.

"Preliminary data suggest that using the online biosurveillance in child care centers and preschools gives us an earlier detection and warning system because the younger children appeared to become sick first compared to middle school and high school aged children within the community," Dr. Hashikawa concluded in the press release.

The abstract of the study can be read here.

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