Texas aims for quicker outbreak discovery

While the federal government works to develop a way to use Extensible Markup Language to transmit data between states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Texas Association of Local Health Officials has been working with technology partner Avnet Enterprise Solutions to develop the Texas Health Alert Network.

Unlike CDC's National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS), which requires states to submit, or push, certain health data to the CDC system, the Texas Health Alert Network will automatically extract, or pull, surveillance data from health care provider systems. The goal is to create a statewide system that recognizes suspicious disease outbreaks more quickly.

Using XML, the Texas Health Alert Network will pull data from hospital databases, looking for evidence that would indicate the presence of a bioterrorist agent or a naturally occurring

disease outbreak, rather than waiting for hospitals to transmit data, as NEDSS does. The system will monitor incoming data, analyze it and report any unusual spikes to local officials for

intervention when needed, all in a completely automated system.

"As soon a patient presents a set of syndromic symptoms, then health officials would like to know about that, so that if you see a spike of events, that might be an indication of a covert release," said Michael Mastrangelo, co-founder of the Texas Health Alert Network.

NEDSS and the Texas network will eventually work together.

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