Global Alert and Response (GAR)

WHO Report on Global Surveillance of Epidemic-prone Infectious Diseases - Introduction


This report focuses on the analysis and interpretation of data collected by WHO on the surveillance of infectious epidemic diseases, the strengths and weaknesses of the data, and how the data can be used and interpreted. There are several aspects of this report that are worth noting. First, time series data for approximately half a century are reported for many of these diseases. Such data allow recent changes to be interpreted in a long-term perspective. Indeed, part of the motivation for including particular diseases in this report is to make these data available to the public, to health professionals and to scholars. One of the surveillance systems discussed in this report, the surveillance system for leishmania/HIV co-infection, is very new. Already this system is indicating that co-infection is a problem in some parts of Europe. For HIV/AIDS, there is a unique set of data from the beginning of the pandemic until the present time.

Second, this volume uses a multiple disease approach, and examines not only the surveillance of (nine) different diseases, but also contrasts and compares their global surveillance systems.

Surveillance has been defined as the continuing scrutiny of all aspects of the occurrence and spread of a disease that are pertinent to effective control (1). For this, systematic collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of health data are essential. This includes collecting information about clinical diagnoses, laboratory diagnoses and mortality, as well as other relevant information needed to detect and track diseases in terms of person, place and time. Surveillance systems must detect new communicable diseases as well as recognize and track diseases that currently are, or have the potential to become, of major public health importance.


  • Last, JM. A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Oxford University Press, 1995.