One of the most fearful events in medicine and population health is an infectious disease outbreak. From the recent measles outbreak beginning at Disneyland in early 2015, we are reminded as physicians that many of the infectious diseases we only read about in textbooks or see on rare occasions, can recur at a moment’s notice. When healthcare workers are confronted with a disease outbreak of an infectious pathogen, prompt identification, isolation, and treatment as indicated are of the utmost importance.

When an outbreak occurs, an increase in surveillance from physicians and other members of the healthcare team is coupled with widespread media coverage. The public becomes overwhelmed with fear and concern, often bordering on hysteria fueled by the prospect of catching a specific disease. Using medical algorithms, physicians and other members of the healthcare team have the clinical decision tools necessary to help identify potential cases.

During the measles outbreak of 2015, affecting over 170 people from numerous states and countries, urgent cares, emergency rooms, and private practices found themselves screening patients for potential measles exposure. Healthcare workers were able to use algorithms from to screen for clinical features of typical measles and features of severe measles infection in adults.

Besides measles, much of the world focused on the Ebola outbreak from 2014-2015 which also thrust a rare infectious disease into the public spotlight. Doctors around the world were using algorithms to help identify a patient who may have Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

There are many other algorithms in’s collections that can assist doctors in evaluating infectious disease conditions and global disease outbreaks. A sampling of just a few of them include:
Pertussis: Symptom severity scale for pertussis in childrenSymptom severity scale for pertussis in children
Bacterial meningitis: Bacterial meningitis risk score in children with meningeal signsBacterial meningitis risk score in children with meningeal signs
Cholera: Estimating dehydration and volume depletion in choleraEstimating dehydration and volume depletion in cholera
Anthrax: Distinguishing inhalational anthrax from influenza-like illnessDistinguishing inhalational anthrax from influenza-like illness

During periods of disease outbreak, when medical staff may be limited, and other healthcare providers have to step into higher roles, using medical algorithms via the web or iOS app as clinical decision support tools can assist providers in making evidence-based assessments and plans.