Hoping to give aquatics operators faster data about recreational water illness outbreaks and curb the spread of those outbreaks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta will launch an electronic RWI reporting system this spring.

It?s part of a new National Outbreak Reporting System, which includes food, water and person-to-person outbreaks. It will enable state agencies to report outbreaks to the CDC electronically instead of via the current method of paper forms, which can take nine months to collect.

?[The electronic system will allow] better outbreak investigations and data collection, which can lead to a better understanding of how and why outbreaks occur, and improved guidelines and recommendations for preventing future outbreaks,? said Michael J. Beach, epidemiologist and acting director for Healthy Water at the National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases at the CDC.

The new online system was first discussed as a recommendation at the 2005 RWI Prevention workshop, according to Beach. The initiative is a collaboration between the CDC, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists. The CDC and EPA funded the program.

As of press time, final programming was being completed, help desk information for states was being developed and beta testing was set to begin in the spring. Full deployment can be expected by the third or fourth quarter of 2008, Beach said. ?This will mean that the 2009-10 outbreak summary data will have been collected entirely through the new system.?

The announcement comes on the heels of the 2007 swim season, which saw a 24 percent spike in cryptosporidium outbreaks, including one in the Salt Lake City area that led to children under age 5 being banned from pools.