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Open Access Research article

Value of syndromic surveillance within the Armed Forces for early warning during a dengue fever outbreak in French Guiana in 2006

Jean-Baptiste Meynard1*, Hervé Chaudet2, Gaetan Texier3, Vanessa Ardillon4, Françoise Ravachol5, Xavier Deparis6, Henry Jefferson7, Philippe Dussart1, Jacques Morvan1 and Jean-Paul Boutin3

Author Affiliations

1 Institut Pasteur de la Guyane, Cayenne 97306, French Guiana

2 Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille 13385, France

3 Institut de Médecine Tropicale du Service de santé des armées, Marseille 13998, France

4 Cellule Inter Régionale d'Epidémiologie Antilles-Guyane, 97306, French Guiana

5 Direction de la Santé et du Développement Social de la Guyane, 97306, French Guiana

6 Ecole du Val-de-Grâce, Paris 75230, France

7 Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool L3 5QA, UK

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:29  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-29

Published: 2 July 2008



A dengue fever outbreak occured in French Guiana in 2006. The objectives were to study the value of a syndromic surveillance system set up within the armed forces, compared to the traditional clinical surveillance system during this outbreak, to highlight issues involved in comparing military and civilian surveillance systems and to discuss the interest of syndromic surveillance for public health response.


Military syndromic surveillance allows the surveillance of suspected dengue fever cases among the 3,000 armed forces personnel. Within the same population, clinical surveillance uses several definition criteria for dengue fever cases, depending on the epidemiological situation. Civilian laboratory surveillance allows the surveillance of biologically confirmed cases, within the 200,000 inhabitants.


It was shown that syndromic surveillance detected the dengue fever outbreak several weeks before clinical surveillance, allowing quick and effective enhancement of vector control within the armed forces. Syndromic surveillance was also found to have detected the outbreak before civilian laboratory surveillance.


Military syndromic surveillance allowed an early warning for this outbreak to be issued, enabling a quicker public health response by the armed forces. Civilian surveillance system has since introduced syndromic surveillance as part of its surveillance strategy. This should enable quicker public health responses in the future.