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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 95, Issue 6, pp 446–450 | Cite as

Syndromic Surveillance of Gastrointestinal Illness Using Pharmacy Over-the-Counter Sales

A Retrospective Study of Waterborne Outbreaks in Saskatchewan and Ontario
  • Victoria L. EdgeEmail author
  • Frank Pollari
  • Gillian Lim
  • Jeff Aramini
  • Paul Sockett
  • S. Wayne Martin
  • Jeff Wilson
  • Andrea Ellis
Article

Abstract

Objective

To ascertain if monitoring over-the-counter (OTC) drug sales could provide a timely syndromic surveillance method of detecting outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness.

Method

This study evaluated the potential of a syndromic surveillance system by comparing retrospective pharmacy OTC sales of anti-nauseants and anti-diarrheals to emergency room visits and case numbers from two Canadian outbreaks related to water contamination by Cryptosporidium, and E.coli O157:H7 and Campylobacter.

Results

Local sales trends of weekly aggregate OTC products were comparable to the outbreak epidemic curves. Statistical control tests on the sales data indicated the start of the outbreak periods.

Conclusions

An automated monitoring tool based on spatial and temporal trend analyses of daily OTC sales would provide supplemental community health information for public health officials that is timelier than currently available laboratory-based surveillance systems.

Résumé

Objectif

Vérifier si la surveillance des ventes de médicaments en vente libre pourrait être une méthode de surveillance syndromique opportune en vue de détecter les éclosions de maladies gastro-intestinales.

Méthode

Nous avons évalué les possibilités d’un système de surveillance syndromique en comparant les ventes rétrospectives d’antinauséeux et d’antidiarrhéiques vendus librement en pharmacie aux visites en salles d’urgence et au nombre de cas associés à deux éclosions au Canada liées à la contamination de l’eau par Cryptosporidium, et par E.coli O157:H7 et Campylobacter.

Résultats

Les tendances des ventes locales hebdomadaires de produits en vente libre suivaient les courbes des flambées épidémiques. Des contrôles statistiques des chiffres de vente ont indiqué le début des périodes d’éclosion.

Conclusion

Un outil de surveillance automatique basé sur l’analyse des tendances spatiales et temporelles des ventes quotidiennes de médicaments en vente libre fournirait aux agents de santé publique des renseignements supplémentaires sur la santé communautaire plus à jour que les systèmes de surveillance actuellement utilisés par les laboratoires.

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria L. Edge
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Frank Pollari
    • 1
  • Gillian Lim
    • 1
  • Jeff Aramini
    • 1
  • Paul Sockett
    • 1
  • S. Wayne Martin
    • 2
  • Jeff Wilson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrea Ellis
    • 1
  1. 1.Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonotic Infections DivisionHealth CanadaGuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Department of Population MedicineUniversity of GuelphCanada

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