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WP 5: Surveillance of Infectious Disease


To develop concepts of a surveillance system for infectious disease outbreaks in healthcare workers (HCWs): to develop a system for the immediate reporting of unusual and/or clusters of communicable illness of probable infectious aetiology in previously healthy HCWs. The system should be timely, simple and easy to adapt to different healthcare settings.

Executive summary

The SARS pandemic at the beginning of the century highlighted the role healthcare workers (HCWs) may have in outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases (ID). By the nature of their work, HCWs are at high risk of acquiring IDs from their patients. Surveillance of HCWs may provide an important opportunity for the early detection of ID outbreaks.

A systematic review of the literature was performed followed by a questionnaire survey to collate information on existing surveillance systems for HCWs. The evidence gathered during this initial stage was presented and discussed at the First General Meeting in January 2009. At this meeting, expert groups were formed and the evidence was further discussed within these groups at two work package specific meetings in March 2009 and June 2010, where draft framework models for a surveillance system were developed. Focus groups were subsequently carried out in 4 European countries among HCWs which informed the final draft of the framework model. Associated partners, collaborating partners, representatives from European Member States, and other stakeholders were invited to both the First and Second General Meeting where they were given opportunity to direct and influence the final product.
The framework is a syndromic surveillance system which collects and monitors data on absence and symptoms reported by hospital-based HCWs. The framework consists of a series of steps including i.) pre-exposure training and education ii.) data collection, iii.) data analysis, iv.) outbreak investigation and management, and v.) higher level reporting of incidents with possible national or international significance.

Pilot studies in diverse healthcare settings will be necessary to fully assess the value of the proposed framework in different European countries as the regulatory and legal conditions vary considerably.

Date: 17.12.2013


  • Aghaizu A, Elam G, Ncube F, Thomson G, Szilagyi E, Eckmanns T et al. (2011): Preventing the next 'SARS' - European healthcare workers' attitudes towards monitoring their health for the surveillance of newly emerging infections: qualitative study
    BMC Public Health 11 (1): 541. Epub Jul 8. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-541.
    (PDF, 243 KB)