EpiSurv and providing surveillance on notifiable diseases

If a health practitioner suspects a patient may have a notifiable disease, legally they must report this to a Medical Officer of Health. Medical Officers of Health are public health doctors who work at public health units (PHU’s) across the country.

Usually the patient health practitioner would arrange the patient to be tested for the disease with a clinical specimen (for example, a blood sample or swab) being sent to a diagnostic laboratory. For some diseases, specimens may also be sent to ESR laboratories for specialist testing.

At the PHU, staff create a case record in EpiSurv, the secure national system used by PHU’s to report cases of notifiable diseases, which is operated by ESR on behalf of the Ministry of Health. Initial information about the patient including demographic data, such as name, age, address, and disease symptoms is entered into the case record.

PHU staff also enter information on whether the patient meets the surveillance case definition.(external link)

The PHU staff carry out a case investigation to identify more detailed information, such as the patients travel history or their likely source of infection. It is important to note that some information is not able to be identified immediately and will only be identified as the PHU staff carry out the investigation. As it does become available, this further information is then entered into EpiSurv.

If the patient has been tested for the disease, the PHU is notified of the laboratory test result. If the patient has tested positive for the disease, the case status in EpiSurv is changed to “Confirmed”. If the result is negative, it is changed to “Not a case”.

Sometimes the case status is recorded as “Probable”. This can happen if a has patient symptoms of the disease or have been in close contact with someone with the disease but laboratory test results are inconclusive. A “Probable” case status will not change to “Confirmed” or “Not a case”.