Direct Laboratory Notification of Communicable Diseases

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Direct Laboratory Notification of Communicable Diseases

National Guidelines

Published in December 2007 by the
Ministry of Health
PO Box 5013, Wellington, New Zealand

ISBN 978-0-478-31265-2

HP 4453

This document is available on the Ministry of Health’s website:



Description of Change

May 2009

Appendix 4: Addition of Influenza A (H1N1) notification flowchart.
Appendix 1: Addition of Invasive Pneumococcal Disease and Non-seasonal influenza (capable of being transmitted between human beings) under the Schedule of Notifiable Diseases.


The surveillance and control of priority communicable diseases remains a fundamental public health task. Surveillance, particularly through disease notification, is important not just because of the information it provides us on broad trends in these diseases, but more importantly because it is the trigger for actions to control outbreaks, and hence protect the health of our communities. More complete and speedy reporting of diseases allows more complete and speedy responses, and so more effective protection of health. Surveillance and response systems also require the participation of individuals and organisations both across the health sector and in other sectors.
Disease notification in New Zealand has formally relied on reporting of cases by medical practitioners, under the provisions of the Health Act 1956, but with informal reporting of at least some diseases by laboratories. However the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, designed to help improve our ability to respond to future epidemics, provided an opportunity to update our notification system, and specifically to introduce a formal notification role for laboratories. This is a key step in strengthening disease surveillance and therefore control systems, as it will increase both the timeliness and completeness of reporting.
During 2007 much work has gone into planning the implementation of this legislative change, and we have received a lot of input from the health sector on how this can best be done. We have also had extensive input from an Advisory Group, and I would like to thank all of the members of the Group for sharing their expertise and wisdom, which has been crucial to getting this important initiative to the implementation stage. I would also like to recognise the extensive work done by the Ministry's project team, working with the Advisory Group and broader sector on the design of systems and processes to support laboratory notification.
Implementing laboratory notification will present further practical challenges. This Guideline document has been prepared to assist with the implementation process, and we are keen to receive feedback both on the document, and on how we can best support and utilise laboratory notification into the future.
Mark Jacobs

Director of Public Health


Errata iii

Foreword iv

Contents v

1 Introduction 1

1.1 Background 1

1.2 Purpose of the guidelines 1

1.3 Structure of the guidelines 3

2 Overview: Before and after the law change 4

2.1 Pre-December 2007 notification process 4

2.2 Post-December 2007 notification processes 5

2.3 Overview of participating organisations and systems that support the direct notification of notifiable diseases 6

2.4 End-to-end laboratory notification process map 8

3 Legal Requirements 11

3.1 Changes to the Health Act 1956 11

3.2 Advice on laboratories’ new legal obligations 11

3.3 Clinicians’ continuing legal obligations 13

3.4 Timeframe for adding new notifiable diseases to the Schedule 13

4 Laboratory Notification Flowcharts 15

4.1 Purpose 15

4.2 How to use the flowcharts 15

4.3 Timing and process for updating 15

5 National Electronic Notification System 16

5.1 EpiSurv messaging system 16

5.2 ESR contacts 18

5.3 Links with other IT projects 18

6 IT Specifications 19

6.1 Information requirements 19

6.2 Privacy 20

6.3 Notifiable disease database 20

6.4 System functionality 21

6.5 Security 22

6.6 Availability 23

6.7 Data management 23

6.8 Data warehouse 23

6.9 Data integration 23

6.10 Software 24

6.11 Performance 24

Appendix 1: Diseases Notifiable in New Zealand (include suspected cases)* as at December 2007 25

Notifiable infectious diseases under the Health Act 1956 25

Diseases notifiable to a Medical Officer of Health (other than notifiable infectious diseases) 25

Notifiable diseases under the Tuberculosis Act 1948 26

Appendix 2: List of Public Health Units and Medical Officers of Health 27

Appendix 3: Members of the Advisory Group and Project Team 29

Direct Laboratory Notification Project Team 29

Direct Laboratory Notification Advisory Group 29

Appendix 4: Complete Set of Laboratory Notification Flowcharts 30

List of Figures

Figure 1: The pre-December 2007 system for notification 5

Figure 2: Target system for notification 6

Figure 3: Interim system for notification 8

Figure 4: The main notification routes 9

Figure 5: Electronic laboratory notification process 21

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