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When towns lose their newspapers, disease detectives are left flying blind

In Helen Branswell’s article published March 20th by STAT, ISID Director of Emerging Disease Surveillance and ProMED Editor Dr. Lawrence Madoff considers what impact the loss of local community reporting could have on events-based infectious disease surveillance.

From the article…

Event-based surveillance is more informal and relies on systems that pick up on media reports, rumors on social media, and the like. That’s the way news of the 2003 SARS outbreak emerged. Internet chatter about a disease that was sickening and killing people in China made its way to the WHO before Chinese authorities eventually disclosed the existence of an outbreak that had been raging for several months.

“It is well-known that event-based surveillance depends on healthy, local journalism,” said Madoff, who is also director of the Massachusetts Department of Health’s division of epidemiology and immunization. “So it would be a reasonable assumption that the loss of local sources would increase the time required to discover an outbreak.”

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