Disease Surveillance Enters the 21st Century

Contagious disease data have been reported by cities and states to the federal government at weekly intervals in the United States since 1888. Now those data are publicly available in a computerized format thanks to a project at the University of Pittsburgh.

Willem G. van Panhuis, MD, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and colleagues published their description of the database in the November 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The database includes all weekly surveillance reports from US cities and states published between 1888 and 2011. It includes 87,950,807 reported individual cases, each localized in space and time, extracted from 6500 tables.

Public access to this volume and the granularity of the health data are extraordinary, according to the authors. Development of the database was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

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Disease Surveillance Enters the 21st Century

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