Building a Surveillance System

The Federal government and state public health officials are working together to build a disease surveillance system. The system was developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL)  located in Maryland to better track opioid related deaths.

The “Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics or referred to as (ESSENCE) has been used to predict and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases, to monitor mass gatherings, and even to assist in disaster recovery efforts.

Today, CDC, several state public health agencies, and individual regional, county and city public health agencies, are using ESSENCE to collect reports from emergency room admissions that are opioid abuse-related.

The system is also used to query medical examiner reports, which can provide information on opioid abuse-associated deaths and poison control call center data which captures opioid abuse-associated calls. Also, emergency medical system run data is collected which can provide information on potential opioid abuse related EMS runs, plus information on encounters requiring the administration of Naloxone.

According to Wayne Loschen, Software Engineer and ESSENCE project Manager in APL’s National Health Mission Area, “When accurate and reliable data sources are made available to electronic disease surveillance systems such as ESSENCE, public health specialists can provide a more comprehensive picture of fatal and nonfatal opioid overdose case counts as well as time trends in high risk regions.”

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