Surveillance protocols involve the reporting of cases of illness by laboratories to state health agencies. The collated data are used in research efforts and formation of policy to best educate and protect the public. Usually, the protocols will focus on a specific disease.
Protocols may assume two different forms of surveillance: active and passive. Active surveillance involves the health agencies or bureaus actually contacting and "soliciting" researchers, labs or even patients for information. The passive form requires health-care providers and labs to tell the agencies of any cases found. There may be a time frame (e.g., 24 hours or less) required for the submission.
Diseases found in surveillance protocols are often communicable, which is why these initiatives can be so important in curbing or preventing outbreaks. Tuberculosis is one such disease and has been the subject of some school-oriented surveillance protocols, as has influenza.
Cataloging episodes of disease is one method for stemming the spread of illness, observing its patterns and notifying health and public authorities. Surveillance protocols partner health agencies with the efforts of clinical researchers.