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Lancet. 1998 Jul 4;352(9121):58-61.

Disease surveillance at district level: a model for developing countries.

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Department of Clinical Virology, Christian Medical College Hospital, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India.


For over a decade we have maintained within a district of 5 million people, a system of prompt reporting of cases of childhood vaccine-preventable diseases, encephalitis, meningitis, hepatitis, and rabies; together with a sentinel laboratory surveillance of cholera, typhoid fever, malaria, HIV infection and antimicrobial-resistance patterns of selected pathogens. The system combined government and private sectors, with every hospital enrolled and participating. Reports were scanned daily on a computer for any clustering of cases. Interventions included investigations, immunisation, antimicrobial treatment, health education, and physical rehabilitation of children with paralysis. All vaccine-preventable diseases have declined markedly, whilst malaria and HIV infections have increased steadily. Annual expense was less than one US cent per head. The reasons for the success and sustainability of this model include simplicity or reporting procedure, low budget, private-sector participation, personal rapport with people in the network, regular feedback of information through a monthly bulletin, and the visible interventions consequent upon reporting. This district-level disease surveillance model is replicable in developing countries for evaluating polio eradication efforts, monitoring immunisation programmes, detecting outbreaks of old or new diseases, and for evaluating control measures.

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