Volume 21, Number 9—September 2015
From the French surveiller, “to watch over,” public health surveillance has its roots in 14th-century Europe. In an early form of surveillance, in approximately 1348, the Venetian Republic appointed guardians of public health to detect and exclude ships that carried plague-infected passengers. In 1662, English demographer John Graunt analyzed the mortality rolls in London and described a system to warn of the onset and spread of plague. Until the 1950s, “surveillance” referred to monitoring a person exposed to a disease; the current concept of surveillance as monitoring disease occurrence in populations was promoted by Alexander Langmuir of the Communicable Diseases Center (now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- Declich S, Carter AO. Public health surveillance: historical origins, methods and evaluation. Bull World Health Organ. 1994;72:285–304 .
- Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 32nd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.