Background: In 1999 the Communicable Disease Prevention Law of Japan was completely revised into the "New" Infectious Disease Control Law, which reiterated the importance of surveillance and information dissemination and re-organized the surveillance system. This paper is an attempt to illustrate the potential impact of the new surveillance system through a description of the existing surveillance system and data before and after the revision. Methods: After a historical review of surveillance system in Japan, the current surveillance system is described. Data sets of actual case numbers reported and incidence rate per 1,000,000 population are compared before and after the revision. Results: Comparison of the data between the 2 periods revealed that most of the diseases have had declining trends after the new law was enacted with several exceptions. However, although no major break in continuity is observed in seriously perceived disease, in milder diseases there are striking gaps between the numbers reported in the mandatory and sentinel reporting framework. Sentinel reporting framework maintained the continuity of data without major gaps. Conclusions: From this perspective, the new surveillance system with two different frameworks of mandatory reporting for severe diseases and sentinel reporting for milder diseases seems to be working well. But continuous efforts should be made for evaluation and improvement of surveillance system and risk communication through the research on data analysis and effective communication method.
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