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Open Access Research article

Summary of data reported to CDC's national automated biosurveillance system, 2008

Jerome I Tokars*, Roseanne English, Paul McMurray and Barry Rhodes

Author Affiliations

The National Center for Public Health Informatics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2010, 10:30  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-10-30

Published: 25 May 2010



BioSense is the US national automated biosurveillance system. Data regarding chief complaints and diagnoses are automatically pre-processed into 11 broader syndromes (e.g., respiratory) and 78 narrower sub-syndromes (e.g., asthma). The objectives of this report are to present the types of illness and injury that can be studied using these data and the frequency of visits for the syndromes and sub-syndromes in the various data types; this information will facilitate use of the system and comparison with other systems.


For each major data source, we summarized information on the facilities, timeliness, patient demographics, and rates of visits for each syndrome and sub-syndrome.


In 2008, the primary data sources were the 333 US Department of Defense, 770 US Veterans Affairs, and 532 civilian hospital emergency department facilities. Median times from patient visit to record receipt at CDC were 2.2 days, 2.0 days, and 4 hours for these sources respectively. Among sub-syndromes, we summarize mean 2008 visit rates in 45 infectious disease categories, 11 injury categories, 7 chronic disease categories, and 15 other categories.


We present a systematic summary of data that is automatically available to public health departments for monitoring and responding to emergencies.