Notifiable Diseases Database: Factsheet

Publication Summary

The Notifiable Diseases Database is a public online resource for notifiable disease policy information in Canada. It provides a central location where federal, provincial and territorial notifiable disease lists, case definitions and legislated reporting requirements can be easily retrieved and compared. The Notifiable Diseases Database is particularly useful for Canadian public health officials, policy makers, epidemiologists, practitioners and researchers, among others. It provides context to the collection of provincial, territorial and national surveillance data, which can lead to better interpretation, communication and response in the face of outbreaks and epidemics. The NDDB is used to stimulate discussion regarding variations in notifiable disease lists, terminology, case definitions and reporting criteria across the country.

Published: 2015

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Project No. 215

The Notifiable Diseases Database is a public online resource for notifiable disease (ND) policy information in Canada. It provides a central location where federal, provincial and territorial notifiable disease lists, case definitions and legislated reporting requirements can be easily retrieved and compared.

The Notifiable Diseases Database is particularly useful for Canadian public health officials, policy makers, epidemiologists, practitioners and researchers, among others. It provides context to the collection of provincial, territorial and national surveillance data, which can lead to better interpretation, communication and response in the face of outbreaks and epidemics. The NDDB is used to stimulate discussion regarding variations in ND lists, terminology, case definitions and reporting criteria across the country (see ND Reporting in Canada).

On a single website, the NDDB provides information from public health websites, acts and manuals to allow users to rapidly access and compare jurisdiction-specific ND policy across Canada. Information is updated and verified regularly, and in collaboration with public health units in every jurisdiction.

Notifiable Disease Reporting in Canada

Provincial/Territorial

Each Canadian province and territory has its own legal requirements for reporting certain infectious (and non-infectious) diseases deemed important for public health monitoring. These are most often referred to as Notifiable Diseases or Reportable Diseases. Reporting is mandated by provincial and territorial legislation (most often through a Public Health Act), but ND lists and other reporting details, such as case definitions and timelines, are typically outlined in associated regulations and communicable disease guidelines or manuals.

Federal

The Public Health Agency of Canada collects information from jurisdictions on diseases that are considered important for national surveillance. Reporting is voluntary at the federal level and is done by mutual agreement with provinces and territories. Canada has publically available data on nationally notifiable diseases since 1924. However, due to the voluntary nature of reporting and periodic revisions that are made to the list, national surveillance data and trends must be interpreted with vigilance.

International

Canada has a voluntary obligation under the International Health Regulations to report to the World Health Organization any event that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

Using the Notifiable Diseases Database

Search for Notifiable Diseases

The NDDB provides many search options for users. Users can search by disease (e.g. How is HIV reported across jurisdictions?), search by jurisdiction (e.g. How does Alberta’s ND list compare to BC?), search by transmission type (e.g. Which waterborne diseases are reported on in which jurisdictions?), and search for vaccine-preventable diseases (i.e. which vaccine-preventable diseases are reported on in which jurisdictions?). The NDDB also contains a general search box where users can enter any term(s) of interest (e.g. “Ebola”), and all instances of that term in the NDDB will be retrieved

Compare Disease Lists

The NDDB provides a list of every ND that is legislated across Canada. It then highlights which of those diseases are legislated in particular jurisdictions. This allows for rapid comparisons across jurisdictions.

Notifiable Disease Notifiable in Jurisdiction A Notifiable in Jurisdiction B
Acute Flaccid Paralysis Yes No
Norovirus No Yes
Varicella (Chickenpox) No No
West Nile Yes Yes

Compare Reporting Details

For each notifiable disease, the NDDB provides comparable, jurisdiction-specific information on:

Case definitions and degree of certainty (confirmed, probable, suspect) required for reporting

• Who must report the disease

• To whom diseases must be reported

• How quickly diseases must be reported

• Links to sources for the above information

ND Reporting in Canada – Variability and Gaps

As ND reporting policy has developed independently in each province and territory, there are currently variations in policy between jurisdictions. For example, there are differences in: What exactly must be reported (diseases, case definitions, degree of certainty required, accompanying information, etc.) Who must report the information (some or all of: physicians, lab technologists, blood services, hospitals, schools and other institutions, etc.) How the information must be reported (location, authority, method of submission, immediacy, etc.) As well, ND lists and reporting policies undergo regular evaluation and frequently change within jurisdictions. These changes have important implications for those who interpret, communicate and respond to past and current trends in ND counts and rates across Canada. Despite the importance of inter-jurisdictional comparison in the ND policy evaluation process, jurisdiction-specific ND lists and reporting policy has not traditionally been easy to retrieve, aggregate or compare. This could increase the risk for potential inaccuracies, inconsistencies and inefficiencies in ND reporting policy and practice in Canada.

The Notifiable Diseases Database – Moving Forward

The NDDB provides Canadian public health professionals with a central location to quickly examine and assess variations in ND policy across F/P/T jurisdictions. Users can orient themselves to the context, limitations and nuances of ND data and trends across Canada, as well as critically analyze local ND reporting policy in relation to other jurisdictions. Where warranted, the NDDB can help catalyze consensus around notifiable disease list items, terminology, case definitions and reporting criteria across Canadian provinces and territories. Looking ahead, other ND-related policy information will be added to the NDDB, such as clinical disease guidelines, vaccination policy and links to jurisdiction-specific epidemiological data.

Tell us what you think of the NDDB and how it can work for you!

Production of this document has been made possible through a financial contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada through funding for the National Collaborating Centres for Public Health (NCCPH).

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Information contained in the document may be cited provided that the source is mentioned.