Epidemiology is the study of health and disease in populations. Disease surveillance is the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health data. Disease surveillance data is used to determine the need for public health action.
During a public health emergency response, epidemiology is used to understand the needs of affected populations, the nature of the disease or exposure, and to inform control activities. This can include identifying potential outbreaks or clusters of disease (through public health investigation, active case finding and contact tracing), determining causation of disease, and assessing exposure and disease risk.
Disease surveillance activities are carried out by Population and Public Health Division within the Ministry of Health and Public Health Units within Local Health Districts. Surveillance systems are particularly important in supporting a public health emergency response.
Routine sources of health surveillance information include:
During a public health emergency response, additional monitoring and surveillance activities may include:
Maintaining close links with epidemiologists in agricultural and veterinary disease surveillance is important in promoting awareness of potential environmental hazards and supporting effective exchange of information during outbreaks of zoonotic disease.