A sentinel health event is the occurrence of a specific health condition, or the occurrence of an adverse outcome to a medical intervention, which signals that (a) the incidence of a condition or disease has exceeded the threshold of expected cases, (b) changes are occurring in the health levels of a population, or (c) the quality of medical care may need to be improved. Each of these circumstances may indicate the presence of a broader public health problem, and each requires epidemiologic investigation and intervention.

For example, the occurrence of a single case of smallpox anywhere in the world would signal the recurrence of a disease that has been eradicated in the wild, indicating that a highly unusual and unexpected event has occurred that requires immediate ...

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