For the purpose of developing a national system for outbreak surveillance, local outbreak signals were compared in three sources of syndromic data – telephone triage of acute gastroenteritis, web queries about symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, and over-the-counter (OTC) pharmacy sales of antidiarrhoeal medication. The data sources were compared against nine known waterborne and foodborne outbreaks in Sweden in 2007–2011. Outbreak signals were identified for the four largest outbreaks in the telephone triage data and the two largest outbreaks in the data on OTC sales of antidiarrhoeal medication. No signals could be identified in the data on web queries. The signal magnitude for the fourth largest outbreak indicated a tenfold larger outbreak than officially reported, supporting the use of telephone triage data for situational awareness. For the two largest outbreaks, telephone triage data on adult diarrhoea provided outbreak signals at an early stage, weeks and months in advance, respectively, potentially serving the purpose of early event detection. In conclusion, telephone triage data provided the most promising source for surveillance of point-source outbreaks.
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