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Strongyloidiasis: a case for notification in Australia?

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To the Editor: Australia’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) is used to monitor trends in 58 communicable diseases or conditions. The incidence of notifiable diseases can be decreased by public health action. Some diseases require rapid local responses, such as outbreaks of vaccine-preventable or foodborne diseases. Upward trends in the incidence of other notifiable diseases — for example, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections and bloodborne viruses — can be managed by less-rapid responses. The NNDSS exists not for data collection per se, but for public health action.

The NNDSS is a dynamic tool of great value in specific diseases, particularly when control or elimination programs are being implemented, such as for hydatid disease, polio and measles. Diseases and conditions can be added or removed as required by the need for public health action.

Currently, Aboriginal people in rural and remote communities have a very high prevalence of strongyloidiasis, a lifelong disease caused by infection with the gastrointestinal nematode Strongyloides stercoralis.1 This parasite is very rare in mainstream Australian communities and is generally acquired overseas or from outback Indigenous communities. Prevalence in many Indigenous communities is 15% or greater, and laboratory records indicate that the infection…