The Internet plays many roles in biosurveillance. It serves as the electronic network over which people and biosurveillance systems located anywhere on the planet communicate. It is the platform for the web, which is a medium for rapid dissemination of new information and an electronic encyclopedia for the storage and retrieval of vast quantities of older information. It provides a variety of programs such as e-mail, maps, driving directions, and person locators that epidemiologists and other biosurveillance personnel can use to increase their efficiency.
Organizations such as ProMED, Health Canada, and the USDA's Veterinary Services, CEI, have constructed novel biosurveillance systems that use general Internet software tools such as e-mail lists and search engines to bring the existence of known outbreaks or clusters of cases to the attention of the world's public health and animal health communities. In the future, we expect that new forms of biosurveillance may emerge based on analysis of Internet utilization, websites that offer diagnostic assistance, or websites that encourage self-reporting of illness.
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