New Online Tool Lets FPs Review Data on Disease Outbreaks

March 26, 2018 10:11 am News Staff

The CDC has unveiled a new online data tool(wwwn.cdc.gov) that allows users to search through almost two decades of information collected on various types of enteric disease outbreaks in the United States. The so-called NORS Dashboard, launched March 12, provides family physicians and other interested parties with expanded access to disease outbreak data from the National Outbreak Reporting System.

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The NORS Dashboard replaces the Foodborne Outbreak Online Database (FOOD) Tool,(content.govdelivery.com) which provided data on foodborne disease outbreaks only. The new dashboard contains information on not only foodborne outbreaks, but also those caused by waterborne pathogens, animal contact, environmental exposure and person-to-person contact, as well as outbreaks of indeterminate or unknown origin. It does not contain information on all disease outbreaks, however, because NORS does not collect information on disease outbreaks that result from an exposure that occurs outside the United States.

Family physicians who want to track disease outbreaks in their state can customize data searches in several ways. In addition to searching by the overall type of outbreak, the NORS Dashboard allows users to filter information based on

  • year (data from 1998 through 2016 are currently available);
  • state (with the option of selecting an individual state or several states);
  • etiology; and
  • setting (e.g., daycare center, restaurant, nursing home, etc.).

Foodborne disease outbreaks may be further defined by selecting specific foods or ingredients by which to filter results. Waterborne outbreaks may also be analyzed by water exposure and/or water type.

Users who perform a customized search on the dashboard will see basic numeric results displayed via a pair of "Quick Stats" tables. The "Quick Stats - Overall" table lists the total number of outbreaks, illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths for all outbreaks in the dashboard, and the "Quick Stats - Current Search" table provides those same categories of information customized according to the user's search criteria.

The dashboard also gives users the option of displaying information using a variety of interactive maps, graphs and charts, as well as providing data in a tabular format that can be sorted alphabetically or numerically. In addition, after performing a customized search, users can save the search results as an Excel file for later use.

Given the wealth of information the CDC has accumulated, even experienced users of similar data tools who visit the NORS Dashboard for the first time may be overwhelmed by the amount of data at their fingertips. Fortunately, the agency has provided an FAQ page(www.cdc.gov) that explains the dashboard in considerable detail. The page also guides users through the process of conducting a search and explains differences between certain categories of search terms.

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More From AAFP
American Family Physician: Recreational Waterborne Illnesses: Recognition, Treatment and Prevention
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American Family Physician: Diagnosis and Management of Foodborne Illness
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Additional Resources
CDC: Foodborne Outbreaks(www.cdc.gov)

CDC: Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (WASH)-Related Emergencies & Outbreaks(www.cdc.gov)

CDC: Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases(www.cdc.gov)