Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Internet and Rabies

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health held a conference in Dec 2015 and started a worldwide discussion on ending the medieval horror known as rabies. Visit The Lancet carried a blog post  and an editorial on the subject (its Vol. 386, Number 10012, Dec 19, 2015). The Lancet Editorial says that 70,000 people die every year because of this disease.  There is an excellent article in Quartz on the topic of rabies in India

WHO says that 20,000 people die from rabies in India every year. Elsewhere, I have read that in the last ten years India has not shown any reduction in rabies deaths per year. Bangladesh, in comparison, has reduced rabies deaths by 50% in the last three years. Immunizing a dog against rabies seems to cost less than Rs 100. Why can’t India commit itself to a vast reduction in the incidence of rabies over the next three years?   

What has all this to do with the Internet, you may wonder! Please hold on for a moment and I will share my thoughts on this topic.

New ideas need to be welcomed even to fight battles we have fighting over the centuries. The following article refers to a good example of a new idea in the field: oral vaccine for animals to immunize them against rabies.  

Next to the Internet! There is so much about rabies in India on the Worldwide Web. Can a few computer science students figure out a way to get actionable information out of all this? For instance, can we identify locations where there is a new cluster of rabies cases?
If this is not possible, can we use social networking to have volunteers report the location of new cases of suspected rabies? In this case, we should be able to automate the collating of received information to alert authorities and media about hotspots of rabies as they develop. It is one thing to vaccinate millions of stray dogs against rabies. It is another to vaccinate a few hundred dogs in a reported hotspot. The smart phone, with accurate location reporting, is one type of tools that can help identify hotspots to focus on.
I would suggest the person reporting a rabies case or dog bite should be free to use a variety of ways of sending information: online forms, a text message over SMS or an Internet based message system, email, an app on a smartphone, etc. A simple notation illustrated below should be enough.
report rabies case
hospital zenith hospital
name ganeshsubramanian
dateofadmission 1-1-2016
locality Jayanagar block 1
city  Bangalore
pincode 560011

(other possible types of information: town XXX, village XXX, district XXX, dateofbirth XXX, dog stray, dog pet, patient male, reportby ramani, dateofbite XXX, patient 98xxx77123; reporter should be free to send whatever information is available)

Design issues: How can we avoid treating multiple reports of a case as multiple cases? Is there a way to use multiple reports from one location to increase our confidence in the report? How can we acknowledge a reporter for his service?

1 comment:

Sindhurakshit said...

Very interesting article, the concept can be also effectively extended for early warning of any epidemic and control , the only challenge we have is how to effectively engage agencies to work on counter measure once a cluster with problem is identified ……