CDC to track quarantined people

CRA Functional Requirements

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to use a secure, Web-based system to track people who are isolated or quarantined in accordance with new rules the agency announced Nov. 22.

The move is part of the government's effort to control the spread of infectious diseases in an emergency.

Marty Cicchinelli, acting director of the Division of Alliance Management and Consultation at CDC’s National Center for Public Health Informatics, said the agency plans will use the same system, Countermeasure and Response Administration (CRA), to collect data on the distribution and administration of vaccines as called for in the Department of Health and Human Services’ pandemic plan released earlier this month.

Cicchinelli said the quarantine and vaccine-tracking information will be separate modules in CRA, which she described as relatively easy to use. Although CDC will launch the system next month, Cicchinelli said the agency does not plan to activate the data-collection module for pandemic influenza until the end of March 2006.

In a pandemic, CRA’s vaccine-tracking module could handle a potentially large amount of data -- as many as 180 million records -- due to the need for mass inoculations, Cicchinelli said.

CDC’s requirements for CRA call for collecting and tracking detailed and specific quarantine information, including the type of restriction imposed, the event that triggered the quarantine or isolation, and ongoing patient-monitoring efforts.

Required patient data includes name, date and time of monitoring, name of health professional doing the monitoring, type of patient encounter (in person or by telephone), and whether or not the patient is complying with the order. The system will assign a unique identifier to each isolation or quarantine.

Cicchinelli said CDC plans to run the system on its midtier servers and is evaluating the need for additional server capacity to support CRA once it starts to take in large amounts of data.

CDC’s proposed revisions to regulations for controlling communicable diseases, announced Nov. 22 and due to be published in the Federal Register Nov. 30, call for provisional isolation or quarantine for people exhibiting symptoms of a communicable disease and those who have come into contact with them, such as the passengers and crew of an airliner.

The proposed rules would allow CDC to impose a provisional quarantine of up to three days for a person suspected of having a communicable disease. That’s how long it takes to run tests to determine the type of illness.

If a person is diagnosed with a communicable disease -- ranging from a strain of flu that reaches pandemic levels to rarer diseases such as the Ebola virus or Marburg hemorrhagic fever -- CDC could impose quarantines based on how long the disease is contagious. That ranges from five to 14 days for flu, 60 days for Ebola, and up to 90 days for Marburg hemorrhagic fever.

CDC’s proposed rules anticipate that people will voluntarily comply with isolation or quarantine orders, but the agency can also use the force of law to make them mandatory. CDC’s proposed rule states that Fourth Amendment prohibitions against search and seizure do not apply during a health emergency.

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