EPI - Laboratory data networks for surveillance of infectious diseases

Last updated on 26-10-2023 by Marinka Vangenck
Project duration:
January 1, 1983
Project with no end date

In short

Laboratories are essential partners for the surveillance and knowledge of the epidemiology of infectious diseases in Belgium. Sciensano’s service Epidemiology of infectious diseases works continuously together with the laboratories via 2 main networks:

  1. the sentinel laboratories (since 1983)
  2. and the National Reference Centres (NRC, since 2011).

Both networks are complementary with each other (but also with other monitoring systems) and send us information on diagnostic data on cases of a wide range of infectious diseases.

Project description

Surveillance of infectious diseases at laboratory level, essential for public health

Both the network of sentinel labs (EPILABO) and the National References Centres (NRCs) provide laboratory data that contribute to improving public health by:

  • Detecting changes in infectious disease epidemiology and alerting when calculated threshold values ​​are exceeded.

  • Estimating the impact of infectious diseases through monitoring of epidemiological trends, describing the groups most affected and the geographical distribution of the selected infectious diseases.
  • Estimating the incidence and determining the disease burden.
  • Monitoring the impact of prevention programmes.
  • Making predictions concerning the spread and epidemiology of infectious diseases.
  • Supporting the notification system of the regional health authorities.
  • Collecting data for communication to international health authorities (ECDC, WHO, etc.) in order to comply with international obligations.

An important connection with HERA-BE

It is essential that one central data retrieval is used for various infectious diseases which can be easily adapted technically if necessary (e.g. due to an outbreak of a new pathogen). For this purpose, the HERA-BE architecture was developed with the aim of:

  • honoring agreements from the previous inter-federal eHealth Action Plans (including professional terminological and technical standards and data collection from the source systems of healthcare providers)
  • avoiding fragmentation and duplication of data (flows) through multiple systems
  • and limiting the registration burden for healthcare providers.

Essential cooperation to protect and improve public health

To support our partners and policymakers in protecting and improving health all life long, Sciensano can combine, when appropriate, clinical and epidemiological data from NRCs and sentinel laboratories with other data sources. These are for instance:

Collecting and combining these data enable the monitoring of epidemiological trends in various infectious diseases, as well as evaluating the impact of preventive measures at both the regional and national levels.

Associated Health Topics

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