A Syndromic Approach to Emergency Department Surveillance for Skin and Soft Tissue Infections

Larissa May, Marcus Rennick, Leah Gustafson, Julia Gunn


We sought to describe the epidemiology of emergency department (ED) visits for skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) in an urban area with diverse neighborhood populations using syndromic surveillance system data for the time period from 2007-2011. Our aims were three-fold: to demonstrate a proof of concept using syndromic surveillance for SSTI surveillance in the absence of laboratory data, to estimate the burden of ED visits associated with SSTI, and to determine potential geographic ‰ÛÏhotspots‰Û� for these infections.Using our SSTI syndrome definition, we estimated unique SSTI visits represented 3.29 % (n= 45,252) of all visits within Boston‰Ûªs ten EDs during the study period with a seasonal pattern peaking during the summer months.a disproportionate number of SSTI visits (43%) were among Black patients when compared to both the overall Boston population (22% Black) and to the racial distribution of all ED visits (39% Black). The geographic neighborhood distribution of SSTI visits ranged from a low of 2.69% to a high of 4.11% of all neighborhood-specific ED visits.A local syndromic surveillance system has the potential to provide public health authorities and ED clinicians near real-time monitoring of trends in severity and demographic risk factors, and may provide an alternative to tracking the severity of illness where no laboratory data are readily available.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/ojphi.v5i1.4430

Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 * http://ojphi.org