Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Early warning systems

Early warning systems are in most instances, timely surveillance systems that collect information on epidemic-prone diseases in order to trigger prompt public health interventions. However, these systems rarely apply statistical methods to detect changes in trends, or sentinel events that would require intervention. In most cases they rely on an in-depth review done by epidemiologists of the data coming in, which is rarely done in a systematic way. WHO is strengthening the existing surveillance systems for infectious diseases developing early warning systems based on the new concepts and techniques.

Highlights 2002-2004

Early warning system in Darfur region, Sudan:

In April and May 2004, WHO, in collaboration with other United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, Federal Ministry of Health and State Ministries of Health developed an early warning system to detect, respond to and control outbreaks in camps and host communities for displaced people in North, South and West Darfur states. The total internal displaced population is almost 1 300 000, with only c.20% of the people having access to primary health care facilities.

Early warning system in Iraq:

In September 2002, WHO assisted the Iraqi Communicable Disease Control Center in computerizing their surveillance data to improve the early detection of outbreaks of communicable disease and to monitor the trends of visceral leishmaniaisis.

Early warning system in Serbia:

In October 2002, WHO supported the Republican Institute of Public Health, Belgrade in setting up an early warning system for outbreak detection. An application for data entry, data analysis and automatic reports was developped and training in Epi-Info and Epi-data was provided.

Early warning system in Morocco:

In January 2003, WHO, in collaboration with the French Institut de Veile Sanitaire, supported the Directorate of Epidemiology and Disease Control for the designing the specifications of a computerised early warning system.

Early warning system in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

In May 2003, WHO supported the health authorities of the Republic of Macedonia in laying out a plan of action for the implementation of an electronic early warning system.