As the SARS epidemic dramatically demonstrated, the emergence and spread of infectious diseases in this era of intense globalization must be recognized quickly anywhere in the world in order to respond appropriately. Originally founded in 1994, and a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases since 1999, ProMED-mail has more than 40,000 participants in over 165 countries and has pioneered the concept of electronic, Internet-based, emerging disease and outbreak detection and reporting.
ProMED-mail publishes and transmits via the Internet an average of seven daily reports of infectious disease outbreaks with commentary from a staff of expert moderators, on a real-time basis. It is estimated that 70% of emerging human diseases originate in other animal species. Because of the importance of animal diseases to human health ProMED-mail, ProMED-mail also reports on emerging animal diseases. Diseases of agriculturally important plants are also included because of their impact on human survival.
ProMED-mail's independence ensures the avoidance of delay or suppression of disease reporting by governments for bureaucratic or strategic reasons. Versions of ProMED-mail are available in several languages as ProMED-ESP (Spanish), ProMED-PORT (Portuguese), ProMED-RUS (Russian), and ProMED-FR (French), as well as an English version focused on the Mekong Basin region of Southeast Asia. ProMED-mail can be accessed on the web at http://www.promedmail.org with no cost for subscription. Networks such as ProMED-mail are a crucial component of the overall global infectious disease surveillance picture.