Syndromic Surveillance in Sweden – International Society for Disease Surveillance


Time and Date: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 from 11:00 – 12:00pm EST


Anette Hulth, Public Health Agency of Sweden

Dr Anette Hulth’s research focus is on improving communicable disease surveillance using new technology. One area of great interest is syndromic surveillance. Dr Hulth’s main contribution to strengthening the surveillance capacity at the agency, and also to the field as such, is a fully automatic surveillance system based on queries submitted by the general public to a national medical website.

Hulth received a PhD from Stockholm University in 2004, with a thesis on automatic keyword extraction. She has worked at the Public Health Agency of Sweden (former Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control) since 2006. Dr Hulth is also affiliated to Karolinska Institutet where she heads a project on how mobile technology can support the collection of communicable disease data from rural areas in resource-limited parts of the world.

Pär Bjelkmar; Public Health Agency of Sweden

Dr Pär Bjelkmar works at the Public Health Agency of Sweden as project manager and health informatician, currently focusing on the development and evaluation of a syndromic surveillance system based mainly on telephone triage data.

Bjelkmar studied Bioinformatics Engineering at Uppsala University. He continued in this direction by pursuing a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry at Stockholm University. Bjelkmar was awarded his degree in 2012 for his work in the field of modelling and simulation of membrane protein structure and function. This experience gave Dr. Bjelkmar a proficiency in e.g. statistics, computer science and informatics which he brought to his current job at the Public Health Agency in the beginning of 2013 (Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control at the time).


In this webinar, a syndromic surveillance system based on data from a national medical helpline and website will be discussed. The presentation will describe the two data sources (telephone triage and web queries) and the development of methods for local outbreak detection and awareness based on calls, with a particular focus on the large Cryptosporidum outbreaks in Sweden in 2010/2011 (as presented in the paper by Anderson et al, 2014). An update of the incorporation of those methods in a new surveillance system will be given. Moreover, the seasonal epidemics surveillance based on the web queries, which have been part of the regular surveillance at the Public Health Agency of Sweden since 2009, will be discussed.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the webinar, participants will aquire the understanding of: 

  • The development and use of syndromic surveillance based on public health data outside the USA, using the example of Sweden;
  • The methodology used to develop a system for early detection of local outbreaks based on data from a national medical helpline;
  • The methodology used to monitor seasonal epidemics based on queries to a national health service website.


Andersson T, Bjelkmar P, Hulth A, Lindh J, Stenmark S, Widerström M. Syndromic surveillance for local outbreak detection and awareness: evaluating outbreak signals of acute gastroenteritis in telephone triage, web-based queries and over-the-counter pharmacy sales. Epidemiol Infect. 2014 Feb;142(2):303-13.