3.3.2 Health surveillance systems and outbreak management

Surveillance is used to provide regular information for decision-making in an emergency.  Data collected for surveillance involves quantitative figures and analysis, which are used to determine the vulnerability of the crisis-affected community and sudden changes occurring in the area where the population is being hosted in the case of displaced populations. In an emergency response, the surveillance system should be standardised across authorities and organisations, with a designated agency collecting confidential epidemiological reports with supplementary data from health facilities and other agencies engaged in response. Any CARE health response should be coordinated and linked into this system.

The health surveillance system should provide an early warning component to track and respond to an illness, and manage any potential outbreak. Case fatality rates are aligned with particular illnesses and should not exceed the following prevalence for these identified illnesses:

  • Cholera: 1% or lower
  • Shigella (dysentery): 1% or lower
  • Typhoid: 1% or lower.

As soon as an outbreak is identified-preferably within 24 hours of recognising the disease- appropriate control measures need to be put in place. Appropriate outbreak management requires the following:

  • Staff and individuals engaged in first-line response for a medical threat or emergency should be ready to respond to an outbreak with an investigation and control plan that meets current protocols and standards.
  • Health systems should be equipped with laboratories to respond to outbreaks quickly, as well as be able to diagnose and treat malaria and tuberculosis, and provide assistance for vector control.
  • Stocks of essential drugs and contraceptive commodities should be readily available with methods for rapid procurement if necessary.
  • Isolation sites should be available within the response site with transportation available to move specimens to laboratories locally, regionally, nationally or to another country to provide confirmation on the illness.