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  • Mobile phones handy in disease surveillance

The mobile phone can be handy in tracking outbreaks of communicable diseases in rural areas, according to pilot studies carried out by a global consortium in Sri Lanka and India’s Tamil Nadu state.
The consortium of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Carnegie Mellon University's Auton Lab, LIRNEasia, University of Alberta, Respere Lanka, Lanka Jathika Sarvodhaya Society and the International Development Research Centre leverages the mobile phone’s communicating and computing capabilities.
In the pilot studies nurses collected disease data to be transmitted over short messaging service for analysis using special software developed for the Real Time Bio-surveillance Programme.
The objective is to develop a module that will alert health officials and enable them to come up with appropriate interventions, said Nuwan Waidyanatha, senior researcher at LIRNEasia, adding that the larger aim is to evolve an integrated disease surveillance system.
Already the system has detected spreading respiratory tract infections in Sri Lanka and escalating diarrhoea cases in Tamil Nadu within a day of onset.
Presently, 95 per cent of healthcare resources in rural areas go into data collection with little investment in early detection of disease outbreaks.
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