The International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID) is excited to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) this month. ProMED was launched in 1994 as an email service to identify unusual health events related to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and toxins affecting humans, animals, and plants.
Born from a gathering at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in January 1993, the concept to establish a global program for monitoring emerging diseases served as the basis for ProMED. Forming a steering committee under the chairmanship of Stephen Morse, a Rockefeller University virologist and member of the FAS Working Group on Biological Weapons Verification, the project took shape to involve scientists from all regions of the world to build global collaboration in the field. According to Journal of the Federation of American Scientists (Vol. 46, No. 6, Nov/Dec. 1993) “Sixty distinguished participants, mostly from the Eastern Hemisphere, formed ongoing working groups (focused on human disease, animal disease, plant disease and national development issues) and began drafting plans for a global program.”
Twenty-five years later, ProMED continues to thrive and is the largest publicly available system conducting global infectious disease surveillance. It is used daily by public health leaders, government officials at all levels, physicians, veterinarians, and other healthcare workers, researchers, private companies, journalists and the general public.
ProMED relies on event-based “informal” surveillance and gathers information from any number of sources, including all forms of media, local officials and healthcare workers on the ground, and the lay public. Reports of unusual infectious disease outbreaks or concerning public health events are screened and reviewed by a global team of subject matter expert moderators. Fully embracing the One Health discipline that human, animal, and environmental health are inextricably linked, these moderators have backgrounds in virology, parasitology, epidemiology, entomology, veterinary medicine, and plant pathology. ProMED moderators are located in 35 countries and they constantly scan for, review, and post information to the network. Their firsthand knowledge of local health challenges, resource access, and historical outbreaks ensures all ProMED reports are as accurate as possible and have relevant context to place the information in perspective.
ProMED operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and has over 75,000 subscribers, representing nearly every country in the world. Over the last 25 years, ProMED has been the first to report on numerous disease outbreaks including SARS in 2003, MERS in 2012, the East African Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in 2014, and the early spread of Zika. ProMED is unique in that it is apolitical, fully transparent, and open to all free of charge, making it an important and longstanding contributor to the global One Health surveillance landscape.