Information technology can be used in many ways to improve health care for single patients or for an entire population. Bio-surveillance and Pandemic Surveillance are two important ways that computer technology can have an active role in saving lives. Being able to track diseases is a major step towards stopping their spread. Contagion factors and symptoms being known and understood at the outset of any serious disease, such as cholera or the bubonic plague would have saved millions of lives in centuries past. They had no understanding of disease prevention and no technology that could have been used to stop epidemics. Between modern medicine and computer technology we have a much better chance of preventing a pandemic before it starts. Early detection is of primary importance.
Bio-surveillance is the technique of tracking communicable diseases such as STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), salmonellosis, and streptococcal infections. Using special software, doctors, hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms all report individual cases of any communicable disease. The program requires information on the patient such as location, age, gender, race, and other specifics designed to create a demographic portrait of the current victim and potential victims. Names are not used to preserve the anonymity of the patients.
According to Yi Guan, who is a bird flu expert and microbiologist, "If proper surveillance is in place for animals and humans, yes, we can stop pandemic influenza forever. Not just for H5N1, it may also work for other subtypes of viruses." Pandemic surveillance is much like Bio-surveillance in the technological aspects. Details about the victims are stored in a data base and monitored, tracking the transmission and extent of contagion over time. H5N1 or “bird flu" is a classic example of Dr. Guan’s technique.
Disease control and pandemic/epidemic prevention are becoming easier with the Bio surveillance and Pandemic Surveillance technology. Tracking the geographic and demographics of victims gives doctors and scientists a valuable tool in combating deadly pathogens of all kinds. Knowing when the next outbreak may start or what group may be affected allows the time for specialists to intervene before the outbreak can spread. Computer technology enables this tracking with specialized software that coordinates information from all over the city, state, region and world. Surveillance of both toxins and pathogens is very important in the slowing of disease and poisoning damages to the world population.