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Highlights

The threat posed by infectious diseases has grown. New diseases, unknown in the United States just a decade ago, such as West Nile virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), have emerged. To detect cases of infectious diseases, especially before they develop into widespread outbreaks, local, state, and federal public health officials as well as international organizations conduct disease surveillance. Disease surveillance is the process of reporting, collecting, analyzing, and exchanging information related to cases of infectious diseases. In this report GAO was asked to examine disease surveillance efforts in the United States. Specifically, GAO described (1) how state and federal public health officials conduct surveillance for infectious diseases and (2) initiatives intended to enhance disease surveillance. GAO reviewed documents, such as policy manuals and reports related to disease surveillance, and interviewed officials from selected federal departments and agencies, including the Departments of Defense (DOD), Agriculture (USDA), and Homeland Security (DHS) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). GAO conducted structured interviews of state public health officials from 11 states.

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