Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has announced that hospitals, doctors and other health care providers now can electronically report infectious diseases to the state and local health departments as part of a continuing effort to improve the state’s ability to respond to public health emergencies.

Chicago also is developing an electronic reporting system with its share of federal bioterrorism funds for the city’s hospitals and health care providers that is not yet ready to go on-line. When Chicago’s system is in place, it will be designed to share data with the state’s Illinois-National Electronic Disease Surveillance System.

Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, explained that in the past it may have taken days for the state and local health departments to receive written reports that could alert health officials to a possible public health threat. But with I-NEDSS, he said, health officials will have the information as soon it is entered into the system by a hospital emergency department or other disease reporter.

I-NEDSS is expected to be fully implemented in about four years at a cost of $10 million and will be able to collect information on all 77 state-mandated reportable diseases.