Health Protection Surveillance Centre - EPIET
Tel. + 353 (0) 1 876 5300
Fax. + 353 (0) 1 856 1299
Description of the institute
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is Ireland’s leading specialist centre for surveillance of communicable diseases. The centre was set up in 1998 conjointly by Ireland’s eight Health Boards and with the approval of the Minister for Health and Children. HPSC is now part of the Health Service Executive (HSE), which was established on January 1st 2005 and has operational responsibility for the running of health services in Ireland. The population of Ireland is just over 4.5 million.
The aim of HPSC is to improve the health of the Irish population by the collation, interpretation and provision of the best possible information on infectious diseases. This is achieved through surveillance and independent advice, epidemiological investigation, research and training.
HPSC works in partnership with health service providers and sister organisations in other countries to ensure that up to date information is available to contribute to the effective control of infectious diseases.
HPSC currently has approximately 40 staff, including 10 doctors (Acting Director, 6 Specialists in Public Health Medicine, 1 Consultant Microbiologist), 2 nurses and 15 surveillance scientists.
The Functions of HPSC
Surveillance of Communicable Diseases
HPSC is statutorily responsible for the collation, analysis and dissemination of notifiable disease data in Ireland. An online information system called Computerised Infectious Diseases Reporting (CIDR) is used to manage the surveillance and control of infectious diseases in Ireland. The users of this system include laboratories, the regional Departments of Public Health and HPSC. Case-based data are collected in CIDR on 77 of the 84 notifiable infectious diseases. Data on infectious disease outbreaks are also collected on the system. Weekly reports are produced and sent to key partners and published on the HPSC web site. Reports are also published in HPSC's monthly bulletin, Epi-Insight.
Several enhanced surveillance systems are co-ordinated by HPSC and data collated on the CIDR system, these include tuberculosis, verotoxigenic Eschericia coli (VTEC), invasive meningococcal disease, invasive Haemophilus influenzae infection, invasive pneumococcal disease, measles, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV
In addition, HPSC reports annually on the voluntary Antenatal HIV Screening Programme.
Ireland has a comprehensive influenza surveillance system in place. Data from a sentinel General Practitioner (GP) surveillance scheme in conjunction with virological testing are analysed and reported from HPSC on a weekly basis. This activity is in collaboration with the Irish College of General Practitioners, the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) and HPSC. Supplementary data on influenza activity are also collated, analysed and reported on in the weekly influenza report, including critical care admissions due to influenza, respiratory admissions data reported from a network of sentinel hospitals, outbreaks and influenza death registrations
Surveillance of antimicrobial resistance is undertaken by HPSC and the data contribute to the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (EARS-Net) system and the European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance (Euro-GASP).
HPSC produces a comprehensive annual epidemiological report covering all areas of communicable disease surveillance conducted in Ireland and is available at www.hpsc.ie.
HPSC is the designated Competent Body for liaison with ECDC. HPSC contributes data to the various EU ECDC (TESSy) and WHO networks, includingEuroTB, ECDC FWD Network, EARS-Net, EUVAC-Net, EISN, ELDSNet, IBI, CISID, VENICE etc. HPSC is Ireland’s national WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point for communicable diseases.
Surveillance of immunisation and vaccine programmes
HPSC monitors vaccine uptake and vaccine effectiveness, particularly in the routine schedule of immunisation of infants and school children. HPSC also monitors influenza vaccine uptake in healthcare workers and the elderly and participates in the multi-country IMOVE influenza vaccine effectiveness study.
Investigation and control of communicable disease
Responsibility for control of communicable diseases rests with the country’s eight Directors of Public Health (Medical Officer of Health). HPSC provides expert assistance, as required, in the investigation and management of outbreaks or incidents of communicable disease and chairs national outbreaks on behalf of the national Medical Officer of Health. HPSC also monitors emerging threats e.g. avian influenza, Zika virus infection etc. and preparedness plans are in place for the management of these threats.
HPSC conducts research into communicable disease to provide evidence for policy changes. HPSC is involved in a number of ECDC-funded research projects including SpID-Net, IMOVE and Pertinent. HPSC also participates in the VENICE project, funded by ECDC, as one of the leading partners and contributes to the monitoring of uptake for seasonal influenza in EU/EEA countries. HPSC is involved in behavioural surveillance among men who have sex with men (MSM), e.g. MSM 2015 and EMIS 2010 and 2017.
Teaching and Training
HPSC is committed to training and professional development. All staff are encouraged to participate in training activities which are available within HPSC or externally.
HPSC is approved by the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland as a site for higher specialist training of Specialist Registrars in Public Health Medicine.
Medical and scientific staff lecture/teach in University College Dublin and other colleges on the epidemiology of infectious diseases, immunisation and outbreak investigations.
Media Reporting on Communicable diseases
HPSC staff regularlly respond to media requests on national communicable disease issues (television, radio and print media).
Provision of advice to the Department of Health, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Health Boards, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Food Safety Promotion Board and other external agencies. HPSC provides advice to the Department of Health, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, HSE areas, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Food Safety Promotion Board (FSPB), Department of Agriculture and the Marine, Department of Foreign affairs, Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, National Immunisation Advisory Committee and other external agencies.
HPSC staff participate in many external agency working groups and are required to provide evidence-based guidance.
The Scientific Advisory Committee of HPSC is a multidisciplinary committee and develops guidelines on communicable disease prevention, surveillance and control.
EPIET trainees can be involved in many activities of HPSC. EPIET fellows participate in surveillance work, outbreak investigation, teaching and research and writing for national and international scientific journals.
Most of the work of the EPIET fellow will be in Dublin where HPSC is based. However, the EPIET fellow may also obtain experience in sites outside of Dublin during outbreak investigations and research projects.
Examples of previous projects in which EPIET fellows have been involved include: national telephone survey to determine vaccination uptake in adult population; campylobacter case-control study; various outbreak investigations (including several gastroenteric outbreaks, also cases-control studies on (a) HIV in persons who inject drugs and association with new psychoactive substances and (b) hepatitis A associated with consumption of frozen berries; outbreaks due to healthcare associated infections were also investigated); national survey to determine uptake of Hib vaccine during booster programme; evaluation of surveillance systems (e.g. TB and HIV) and hepatitis C virus seroprevalence study in the Irish population (collaborative study with NVRL).
EPIET fellows are encouraged and given opportunities to teach at Irish and external academic institutes during their training.
Participation in short-term overseas assignments is encouraged.
EPIET fellows have numerous opportunities to present their research and investigations at national and international conferences.
EPIET fellows are provided with opportunities to avail of additional training opportunities within HPSC or Ireland.
HPSC has weekly scientific meetings, monthly journal club meetings, monthly training and research forum (bringing together EPIET fellow and Irish trainees in public health medicine based in HPSC with HPSC staff).
The EPIET fellow can participate in scientific meetings organised by external clinical and laboratory societies.
The designated supervisor usually changes with each cohort. However, all trainees, regardless of the cohort, are supervised by medical or scientific staff working in HPSC. Areas of specialty include respiratory and vaccine preventable diseases, gastroenteric and zoonotic diseases, hepatitis, HIV and STIs, antimicrobial resistance and healthcare associated infections and emergency planning.
English will be required. English language classes can be organised to improve English if required.
Number of EPIET fellows trained at institute: Eleven (cohort 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014; includes two MS-track in 2012 and 2014)
Number of fellows in training at the institute: Two (cohort 2015 and 2016)
Number of EPIET alumni working at institute: Four