Accepted Paper:

Enabling Resonance: Influenza surveillance in Germany as a visibility regime  


Kevin Hall (Goethe University FrankfurtMain)

Paper long abstract:

Nearly 20 years ago David Armstrong (1995) observed "The rise of surveillance medicine". With the outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, SARS, pandemic influenza H1N1, MERS-CoV and most recently the outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Guinea the development of surveillance medicine has gained considerable momentum. National systems of health surveillance increasingly experiment with various forms of syndromic surveillance and combine them with classic public health data to yield early warning systems for infectious disease outbreaks. In the process of visualising outbreaks these systems partake in the construction of e.g. a pandemic threat and claim the authority to speak for this threat.

During the influenza pandemic 2009 German public health authorities complained that the population was failing to perceive the pandemic threat. This problematization is the starting point for my analysis of the German influenza surveillance system. The Robert Koch-Institute as the national agency responsible for infectious disease prevention together with the German Green Cross have developed the once rather passive influenza surveillance system in Germany into an actively operating and expanding sentinel surveillance network consisting of general practitioners, hospitals and even individuals registered on a website. In my paper I discuss how harmonisation, standardisation and multiple translations and transformations are employed in aggregating data from such disparate sources and visualising the influenza activity in Germany. Drawing on the visibility regime concept from surveillance studies and STS I analyse how the threat of influenza is made visible and used in the construction of a risk identity of the population.

Panel I1
Understanding techno-security: On pre-emption, situational awareness and technological superiority