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March, 2015
Region: Africa

Using Mobile Phones to Contain Infectious Diseases

Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development(SATREPS)

The mSOS-Ebola alert message on a mobile phone

Outbreaks of epidemics, such as yellow fever and Rift Valley fever, are common in Africa and are often triggered by viruses transmitted by mosquitoes or ticks. Promptly detecting the outbreaks followed by appropriate control measures, such as vaccination campaigns, as well as mosquito or tick containment, are cost-effective solutions for containing the outbreaks early. However, simple or affordable commercial diagnostic systems and outbreak alert systems are not available for those infectious diseases.

In response to the situation described above, a research group headed by Dr. Koichi MORITA, professor and dean of the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Nagasaki University, has worked on developing an affordable, rapid diagnostic kit based on the technology for diagnosing tropical viral infections as developed by the university. Morita’s group has also established an early alert system for outbreaks. Since this project started in January 2012, the group developed the mSOS (mobile SMS-based disease outbreak alert system), which uses a short message service (SMS) on mobile phones. This system was successfully piloted in Kenya.

Furthermore, mSOS-Ebola has been used in Kenya since December 2014. The new system based on the mSOS was developed to ensure that those engaged in national healthcare services promptly report suspected cases of Ebola. Training in the use of this system was conducted with the rapid response team members who were mobilized for the purpose of suspected case investigations and sample collection. Laboratory technicians from Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) were trained in the use of mSOS Ebola. Patient information and diagnoses are shared instantly with ministry health officials using a toll-free number.

The project expects to expand this early containment system on a global scale in the future.

Training session in the use of mSOS Ebola at the Ministry of Health in Kenya

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