A practical approach to designing syndromic surveillance systems for livestock and poultry

Flavie Vial*, John Berezowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The field of animal syndromic surveillance (SyS) is growing, with many systems being developed worldwide. Now is an appropriate time to share ideas and lessons learned from early SyS design and implementation. Based on our practical experience in animal health SyS, with additions from the public health and animal health SyS literature, we put forward for discussion a 6-step approach to designing SyS systems for livestock and poultry.The first step is to formalise policy and surveillance goals which are considerate of stakeholder expectations and reflect priority issues (1). Next, it is important to find consensus on national priority diseases and identify current surveillance gaps. The geographic, demographic, and temporal coverage of the system must be carefully assessed (2). A minimum dataset for SyS that includes the essential data to achieve all surveillance objectives while minimizing the amount of data collected should be defined. One can then compile an inventory of the data sources available and evaluate each using the criteria developed (3). A list of syndromes should then be produced for all data sources. Cases can be classified into syndrome classes and the data can be converted into time series (4). Based on the characteristics of the syndrome-time series, the length of historic data available and the type of outbreaks the system must detect, different aberration detection algorithms can be tested (5). Finally, it is essential to develop a minimally acceptable response protocol for each statistical signal produced (6).Important outcomes of this pre-operational phase should be building of a national network of experts and collective action and evaluation plans. While some of the more applied steps (4 and 5) are currently receiving consideration, more emphasis should be put on earlier conceptual steps by decision makers and surveillance developers (1-3).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal health
  • Disease monitoring
  • Situational awareness
  • Surveillance system
  • Syndromes
  • Syndromic surveillance


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