Laredo Health Dept., School District, Install First Internet System In Nation for Early I.D., Tracking, Decisions on 'Swine Flu' Virus Infection

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The City of Laredo (TX) Health Dept. and the Laredo Ind. School District are installing the Argus1 System, an Internet-based medical decision support system for early identification of possible novel Influenza H1N1 virus infection and other communicable diseases in the city bordering Mexico. It has proven up the system over the past six years. In addition to the virus commonly called "swine flu," the system helps school nurses and other health providers care for sick students or staff, provides instant alerts on recommended vaccine and continuous reporting and tracking of outbreaks to authorities. Argus1 also has the potential to track other infectious diseases and chemical agents identified as potential biological or chemical weapons used by terrorists.

As the school year begins, we are entering a potentially very dangerous period with a new influenza virus that particularly affects young persons

The City of Laredo Health Department (CLHD) and the Laredo Independent School District (LISD) are installing a "first-in-the nation," Internet-based system for early identification of possible novel Influenza H1N1 virus infection of students, teachers and staff. The virus is commonly known as the "swine flu."

The system, known as Argus1, also provides decision support for school nurses and other providers in caring for sick students; instant alerts such as vaccine recommendations, and continuous reporting and tracking of outbreaks to the CLHD and school authorities.

"In addition to Influenza A H1N1, the system also provides point-of-contact surveillance for other forms of influenza as well as the potential to track other public health infectious diseases and chemical agents that the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has identified as possible agents in a biological or chemical terrorist attack," said Robert Burns, Director of Information Technology for Argus One Systems, Inc.

Argus1 was introduced in Laredo as part of a test site from 2003 to 2006. Its re-deployment for the 2009-10 school year is based on extensive testing and refinement of the system, with particular attention to the new Influenza A H1N1 virus. Argus1 also can be used by physician offices, emergency medical responders and hospital emergency departments, Burns noted.

Patricia Keck, Director of LISD Health Services, stated:

"Argus 1 will be an important part of our 'Fight the Flu' program. By quickly receiving reports from school nurses, LISD Health Services Department in conjunction with the City of Laredo is able to track illness patterns. If an illness pattern develops at an LISD school, we will provide the school with intensified flu prevention recommendations. Argus1 is a valuable weapon in fighting flu outbreaks."

"In addition to assisting nurses caring for sick students, Argus1 provides a distinctive reporting function to the CLHD, which has played a key role in the design and development of the system during the past six years," said Vincent Friedewald, MD, Medical Director of Argus One Systems.

"This surveillance system is an important adjunct to track and monitor disease from the onset at the provider level and to quickly report to the CLHD for a rapid response intervention to contain disease," said Hector Gonzalez, MD, MPH, Director of the city's Health Dept.

"The system is secured and uses both landline and wireless Internet-connected computers," explained Friedewald, a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center - Houston.

Argus1 assesses signs, symptoms, test results

"An important part of the program involves assessment of patients' signs, symptoms and test results, which are instantly transformed into a comprehensive list of possible disease causes and detailed information about each of the diseases," he added.

Additionally, when a person's symptoms match any of nine categories of public health syndromes, including influenza-like illnesses, the exact time and location is reported to both the CLHD and to the central office of the School District, he said. All reported cases are instantly displayed on a map of the City of Laredo so that potential cases are immediately tracked to help officials decide how to prevent its spread throughout the schools and the community at large.

"As the school year begins, we are entering a potentially very dangerous period with a new influenza virus that particularly affects young persons," emphasized Friedewald, who is an Associate Editor for The American Journal of Cardiology, as well as a research professor in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame

"Our ability to build on our existing relationship with the LISD and the CLHD should afford the children, as well as the entire community of Laredo, a proven and unsurpassed level of added protection" he said.

Argus One Systems, Inc., is headquartered in Rosenberg, TX (near Houston), with editorial offices in Austin, TX and technology offices in Memphis, TN.

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR INTERVIEWS:
Preston F. Kirk, APR, Kirk Public Relations, Austin TX, 830-693-4447; cell, 512-940-4402

Vincent Friedewald, MD, Argus One Systems, Inc., Austin TX

Mr. Robert Burns, Director of Information Technology, Argus One Systems, Inc., Rosenberg, TX

Patricia C. Keck, MSN, RN, Director of Health Services, Laredo I.S.D., Laredo, TX, 956-795-4160

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Vincent Friedewald, M.D.
Argus One Systems, Inc.
512-417-5379
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Preston F. Kirk, APR
Kirk Public Relations
830-693-4447
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