Unexplained Critical Illness or Death


Requirements for the reporting of unexplained critical illness or death were instituted in December of 2000. Since then, DOH has received 0 to 6 reports annually. The most common clinical syndromes reported are central nervous system (meningitis, encephalitis), respiratory, and sepsis/multi-organ failure.

It is important that clinicians report unusual disease occurrences or deaths to their local health jurisdictions even before they have completed a laboratory investigation.

Purpose of Reporting and Surveillance

  • To identify emerging pathogens in Washington State
  • To raise the index of suspicion of a possible bioterrorism event
  • To recognize critical illnesses or deaths with potential public health impact

Note: Public health resources cannot support the work to diagnose all cases of unexplained critical illness or death.

Legal Reporting Requirements

  • Health care providers and Health care facilities: notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours
  • Laboratories: no requirements for reporting
  • Local health jurisdictions: notifiable to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Communicable Disease Epidemiology (CDE) within 7 days of case investigation completion or summary information required within 21 days