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Open Access Research article

Timeliness of national notifiable diseases surveillance system in Korea: a cross-sectional study

Hyo-Soon Yoo14, Ok Park1, Hye-Kyung Park1, Eun-Gyu Lee1, Eun-Kyeong Jeong2, Jong-Koo Lee3 and Sung-Il Cho4*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Infectious Disease Surveillance, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Seoul, Republic of Korea

2 Division of Disease Control Policy, Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, Seoul, Republic of Korea

3 Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Seoul, Republic of Korea

4 School of Public Health and Institute of Health and Environment, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:93  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-93

Published: 31 March 2009

Abstract

Background

With the increase of international travels, infectious disease control is gaining a greater importance across regional borders. Adequate surveillance system function is crucial to prevent a global spread of infectious disease at the earliest stage. There have been limited reports on the characteristics of infectious disease surveillance in Asia. The authors studied the timeliness of the Korean National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System with regard to major notifiable diseases from 2001 to 2006.

Methods

Six notifiable infectious diseases reported relatively frequently were included in this study. Five diseases were selected by the criteria of reported cases > 100 per year: typhoid fever, shigellosis, mumps, scrub typhus, and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome. In addition, dengue fever was also included to represent an emerging disease, despite its low number of cases. The diseases were compared for the proportion notified within the recommended time limits, median time lags, and for the cumulative distribution of time lags at each surveillance step between symptom onset and date of notification to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Results

The proportion of cases reported in time was lower for disease groups with a recommended time limit of 1 day compared with 7 days (60%–70% vs. > 80%). The median time from disease onset to notification to KCDC ranged between 6 and 20 days. The median time from onset to registration at the local level ranged between 2 and 15 days. Distribution of time lags showed that main delays arose in the time from onset to diagnosis. There were variations in timeliness by disease categories and surveillance steps.

Conclusion

Time from disease onset to diagnosis generally contributed most to the delay in reporting. It is needed to promote public education and to improve clinical guidelines. Rapid reporting by doctors should be encouraged, and unification of recommended reporting time limit can be helpful. Our study also demonstrates the utility of the overall assessment of time-lag distributions for disease-specific strategies to improve surveillance.