Enhanced surveillance during a public health emergency in a resource-limited setting: Experience from a large dengue outbreak in Solomon Islands, 2016-17

PLoS One. 2018 Jun 7;13(6):e0198487. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0198487. eCollection 2018.


Between August-2016 and April-2017, Solomon Islands experienced the largest and longest-running dengue outbreak on record in the country, with 12,329 suspected cases, 877 hospitalisations and 16 deaths. We conducted a retrospective review of related data and documents, and conducted key informant interviews to characterise the event and investigate the adaptability of syndromic surveillance for enhanced and expanded data collection during a public health emergency in a low resource country setting. While the outbreak quickly consumed available public and clinical resources, we found that authorities were able to scale up the conventional national syndrome-based early warning surveillance system to support the increased information demands during the event demonstrating the flexibility of the system and syndromic surveillance more broadly. Challenges in scaling up included upskilling and assisting staff with no previous experience of the tasks required; managing large volumes of data; maintaining data quality for the duration of the outbreak; harmonising routine and enhanced surveillance data and maintaining surveillance for other diseases; producing information optimally useful for response planning; and managing staff fatigue. Solomon Islands, along with other countries of the region remains vulnerable to outbreaks of dengue and other communicable diseases. Ensuring surveillance systems are robust and able to adapt to changing demands during emergencies should be a health protection priority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communicable Diseases / diagnosis
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology
  • Dengue / diagnosis*
  • Dengue / epidemiology
  • Dengue / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Melanesia / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Public Health
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult