Epi-Info™ is a software suite developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. This software package allows people to track, report, and study emerging epidemics as well as past outbreaks of disease. The introduction of Epi-Info™ to the toolbox of epidemiologists around the world was a significant development in this field, allowing people to collect useful real-time data which could be used to figure out how an epidemic started, and potentially to determine how it could be stopped, as well.
There are several facets to Epi-Info™. In the first sense, it allows epidemiologists to collect and analyze data, using a variety of statistical tools such as analysis of variance (ANOVA). By organizing data about an epidemic, epidemiologists can start to think about how the epidemic developed, looking for patterns which might lead to answers. These statistics can also be transmitted to other workers in the field, allowing people to connect multiple epidemics quickly and trace them to a common source, such as an untreated tuberculosis patient or a shipment of tainted food.
The software also generates surveys and other materials which can be used to help gather statistics about the epidemic. By creating forms and questionnaires, epidemiologists can ensure that the same data is collected from every involved patient, generating reams of data which can be collated and studied collectively. Forms can also be generated for medical personnel, friends and family of patients, and so forth, creating a complete picture of an emerging epidemic.
When an outbreak is developing, Epi-Info™ can be extremely valuable. This tool has helped health departments around the world, quickly identifying related epidemics through a shared network, and helping people get to the root cause quickly. By using Epi-Info™, for example, epidemiologists can realize that people in five different states all ate the same food, and they can issue an immediate recall to bring the epidemic to a halt. Information shared through Epi-Info™ can also speed treatment, by identifying which treatment regimens work.
This tool can also be used to study epidemics after the fact. By entering data into Epi-Info™, epidemiologists can create data which may be studied later at more leisure. Later study can identify new ways to handle such epidemics, and it can be used to connect past and future epidemics to each other, potentially establishing a historical link between outbreaks of similar illnesses which could be used to gather more information about them.