ALTHOUGH STATE health departments document investigations of disease epidemics and outbreaks, there is no national system for surveillance of epidemics. In 1988, a 5-month pilot project to assess the feasibility and utility of a standard computerized surveillance system for epidemics was conducted by state epidemiology programs in Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington, and by the Epidemiology Program Office, CDC.
From June through October, 1988, the four participating state epidemiology offices used a uniform data collection system to record reported epidemics investigated by their staffs or by other agencies in their states. For this project, an epidemic or outbreak was defined as: "A recent or sudden excess of cases of a specific disease or clinical syndrome. For a foodborne outbreak, 'n' greater than or equal to 2; for other outbreaks, 'n' greater than or equal