Disease Surveillance

September 2020 update

As you are all aware, COVID 19 has been at the forefront of disease surveillance for the past 6 months. This has proved to be challenging to say the least for GP’s who are participating in the Disease Surveillance network.

Below is a short video illustrated by an ICGP webinar acknowledging the work and commitment of all GP’s within the network.

Dr Michael Joyce – Updated April 2020
Dr Michael Joyce

I know you are all under immense pressure during this very difficult time.  I am writing with some updated advice when it comes to your sentinel network activity. 

Our network will form an important part of describing the epidemiology of SARS CoV 2 in the community both during the outbreak and when it is eventually gone. 

Consequently I want to ask you to please continue to make your weekly returns. 

In addition, for the duration of the crisis you can change the criteria for calling a case influenza.  The vast majority of these cases will be dealt with by telephone. 

Covid 19 and influenza have many symptoms in common and it will be impossible to differentiate between them.  They are both flu like illness.  So for cases dealt with over the telephone that describe a flu like illness you may report them even though they have not been seen face to face.   You should report them as influenza not covid because otherwise your reporting searches will not pick them up.  From an epidemiology point of view we will know they are more likely covid cases. 

When it comes to swabbing clearly it will not be possible to swab patients over the phone.  However if an opportunity arises to take a swab please do so.  There has been some conflicting advice that swabbing might be an aerosol generating procedure (AGP).  I can reassure you that I have it on firm authority from both the HPSC and the NVRL that swabbing is not an AGP.  Therefore it is safe to swab with apron mask and gloves – i.e. the pack the HSE sent us.  Remember at all times hand hygiene is the most important aspect of protection.  

So in summary can I ask you to please

  • Keep reporting
  • Call flu like illness/suspected covid diagnosed over the telephone influenza
  • Swab if the opportunity arises (without PPE this will be difficult)

I would be grateful if you could acknowledge receipt of this message as I need to ensure I am reaching everybody with my communications.  Also please make everyone in the practice aware. 

Stay safe and thank you. 


 Updated: Nov 2016
What is Disease SurveillanceDisease surveillance is an information-based activity involving the collection, analysis and interpretation of large volumes of data originating from a variety of sources.

The information collated is then used in a number of ways to:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of control and preventative health measures
  • Monitor changes in infectious agents e.g. trends in development of antimicrobial resistance
  • Support health planning and the allocation of appropriate resources within the healthcare system.
  • Identify high risk populations or areas to target interventions
  • Provide a valuable archive of disease activity for future reference.

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To be effective, the collection of surveillance data must be standardized on a national basis and be made available at local, regional and national level. HPSC is an essential communication point in forecasting and responding to disease outbreaks and incidents of regional, national and international significance

Together, the ICGP and the HPSC recruited a total of 60 GP’s throughout the Republic of Ireland, ensuring there would be a balanced comparison countrywide.  The data is collated on a weekly basis, and a report is then produced, displaying the present outbreaks, along with comparables from previous seasons.

Health-One programmers have worked closely with the ICGP and the HPSC to make this process easier for its users.  As a result of this co-ordinated approach, other information regarding disease surveillance has been possible, such as

There are currently 60 GP’s recruited,

THERE ARE NO VACANCIES AVAILABLE AT PRESENT.  However, sometimes vacancies become available, and if you would like to be considered if a vacancy occurs, please discuss your interest in participating with Dr Michael Joyce at email hidden; JavaScript is required


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