Effect of electronic laboratory reporting on the burden of lyme disease surveillance--New Jersey, 2001-2006

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008 Jan 18;57(2):42-5.


Lyme disease (LD) is a vector-borne illness caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted in the United States by blacklegged ticks (Ixodes spp.). LD is most commonly found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central regions of the United States. In 2005, New Jersey reported 38.6 LD cases per 100,000 population, the third-highest incidence in the United States after Delaware and Connecticut. Since 1980, New Jersey has mandated that health-care providers and clinical laboratories report all LD cases to local health departments, which investigate these reports to confirm that they meet the national surveillance case definition. Reports from health-care providers typically include exposure and clinical information needed for case confirmation. In contrast, reports from laboratories do not contain exposure and clinical information, and local health departments must follow up with health-care providers to obtain the missing information needed to confirm a case for surveillance purposes. In 2002, New Jersey expanded its paper-based laboratory reporting system to include electronic laboratory-reporting (ELR) for all laboratory-reportable diseases. During the next 4 years, New Jersey's local health departments noted that the number of ELR reports for LD and the time needed to handle them had begun to impede the departments' abilities to address other public health priorities. In 2006, to assess these concerns, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services evaluated the state's LD surveillance system. This report summarizes the results of that evaluation, which determined that during 2001-2004, the total annual number of LD reports increased nearly fivefold (from 2,460 in 2001 to 11,957 in 2004), but confirmed reports increased only 18% (from 2,371 in 2001 to 2,791 in 2004). ELR represented 51% of reports received during 2001-2006, but only 29% were confirmed upon investigation. These results illustrate the difficulties associated with ELR reporting of LD in New Jersey, especially the use of resources needed to address other public health problems. Other states with similar difficulties might need to reevaluate the resources used to confirm electronically reported LD and other notifiable diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Notification / methods*
  • Humans
  • Information Systems*
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology*
  • New Jersey / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance / methods*