Santa Clara, San Mateo County Hospitals Soon Could Employ Electronic Bioterrorism Surveillance System
A bioterrorism symptom surveillance system that Stanford University researchers are testing could soon be adopted by hospitals in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The system, Biothreat Active Surveillance Integrated Information and Communication System, or BASIICS, originally was created to help patients monitor diabetes, cystic fibrosis and other diseases at home. However, Mountain View-based Health Hero Network, which developed the system, has been marketing the device for use in public health surveillance for more than three years, the Mercury News reports (Feder, San Jose Mercury News, 11/1). The system can track symptoms of anthrax, smallpox, hemorrhagic fever and plague, allowing hospital staff to immediately input data using a "simple, four-button device at admission stations." The information then is transmitted to an off-site data center, where health authorities can "analyze the broader, regional picture for early signs of unusually widespread incidence of specific symptoms" (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 11/2). Stanford Medical Center's emergency room has been testing the system for about 10 days. The system would be an "improvement" over Santa Clara County's current bioterrorism surveillance system, under which care providers submit paper "tally sheets" of symptoms to the local health department, according to the county's public health director Dr. Martin Fenstersheib. Stanford's Dr. Eric Weiss said, "Time is essential. The sooner you give treatment, especially for anthrax, it can make a dramatic difference in survival. If you rely on traditional reporting mechanisms, by the time a case of smallpox or plague is reported, the disease will have spread to the point where any public health intervention would be extremely difficult." Public health officials in San Mateo County also have expressed interest in the system, the Mercury News reports (San Jose Mercury News, 11/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.