Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Health Services
Meeting on 9 February 1998
Infectious Disease Surveillance and Data Collection/Management
This paper gives an overview of the infectious disease surveillance system in Hong Kong, covering aspects of data collection and management.
2.The Department of Health is responsible for the prevention and control of infectious diseases. Empowered by the Quarantine and Prevention of Disease Ordinance (Cap. 141), the Department works closely with other departments and health care providers to carry out any necessary investigations into source of infection, contact tracing and other preventive and control measures.
3.Through many years of refinement, the Department has developed an efficient disease surveillance programme built upon a network of health care facilities in the public and private sectors in the territory. Regulation 4 of the Prevention of the Spread of Infectious Disease Regulations under Cap. 141 provides that any medical practitioner shall notify the Director of Health if he/she has reason to suspect an infectious disease exists. A report of notifiable disease will be followed by a series of actions, including disease confirmation, case investigation, identification of source of infection and contact tracing, with a view to containing and preventing further spread of the disease.
4.This infectious disease surveillance network enables the Department of Health to monitor the trends and activities of a full range of infectious diseases. The flow of infectious disease information is a two-way process. Infectious disease data are gathered from both the public and private health care sectors in many forms, including notifications of cases, laboratory reports, routine questionnaires and statistical returns. Such data are compiled regularly through a computerized system to generate timely reports for public health monitoring.
5.On the other hand, the Department disseminates information on infectious diseases to health care professionals and the general public through a variety of channels, including the Public Health and Epidemiology Bulletin, the Internet and Annual Reports. In the recent incidents of influenza A (H5N1), professional guidelines, information notes, hotlines and special forums were provided to different segments of the community to provide them with information on the latest development of this new disease. Experience shows that the existing channels of communication enables efficient and prompt exchange of information on infectious diseases.
6.In addition to routine surveillance activities, the Department also carries out several targeted surveillance programmes for infectious diseases of special public health importance, such as the food surveillance and influenza surveillance programmes. The success of the latter has led to the discovery of the first human case of influenza A (H5N1) virus in August 1997.
7.To facilitate surveillance activities, the Department of Health provides professional assistance and advice to health care parties involved. Reference laboratory service for a full range of diagnostic tests are available to assist in infectious disease detection and case confirmation. For infectious diseases such as cholera and malaria, the Department of Health holds regular interdepartmental meetings with other concerned departments to share the latest information and devise appropriate prevention and control strategies where necessary.
8.In the international arena, the Department of Health also maintains close collaboration with the World Health Organisation and health authorities of other countries in conducting infectious disease surveillance. The Department keeps close track of infectious disease developments globally and exchanges the latest epidemiological information with the World Health Organisation and other interested health authorities. For instance, Hong Kong exchanges infectious diseases data on a monthly basis with neighbouring places, including Macau, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and Hainan province.
9.Looking into the future, the Department recognises the need to enhance the technology and training in the surveillance of infectious diseases. The construction of a modern, highly automated Public Health Laboratory Centre endowed with sophisticated equipment will be completed in mid-2001. This Public Health Laboratory Centre will increase the Department's capacity for laboratory testing from the current 875 000 to 1.2 million tests per year, helping to improve the efficiency and speed in tracing the source of infection and in the enforcement of control measures. In order to keep the Department abreast of the latest technology and knowledge in the field, the Department will continue to send officers overseas for training in renowned infectious disease control centre, such as the Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention at Atlanta, USA.
10.Hong Kong has an effective and comprehensive surveillance system for infectious diseases. To safeguard the health of people of Hong Kong, and as a first and an important step in combating infectious diseases, the surveillance system will be refined continuously to cope with the changing disease pattern over time.
Department of Health