Aspren's Role

Every nation should have a method of monitoring and tracking infectious diseases, with most developed nations having highly sophisticated methods for doing so, Australia included. Not only does ASPREN data help contribute to detecting early warning signs for pandemics but also the occurrence of seasonal influenza and other communicable diseases, by providing information about the levels of ILI, gastro, chicken pox and shingles occurring in the community.

ASPREN data provides community level data and aims to detect outbreaks in the community before they reach epidemic proportions. It is also used to determine which strains are included in the seasonal influenza vaccine, where vaccines should be sent and where maximal response should be concentrated in the event of a pandemic.

As well as this, ASPREN data is used identify novel strains of influenza, with samples being analysed by the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne.

There are two parts to the ASPREN surveillance system:

1. Syndromic Surveillance: Monitoring the levels of influenza-like-illnesses (ILI), gastroenteritis, chicken pox and shingles, based on symptoms that patientís present with to their GP, circulating in communities around Australia. It can also act as an early warning indicator in the event of a pandemic.

2. Respiratory virus surveillance: Patients with ILI are swab tested and screened for respiratory virus detection. This allows us to determine the types of viruses and influenza circulating in the community, and assists in detecting new strains before they cause significant illness.

This information, along with data provided by other surveillance systems, allows the government to track influenza levels around Australia and act to alert us in the event of a pandemic.

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