“The full potential of recent advances in information communication technology, data systems, and data harmonization has not yet been effectively applied” to the challenge of vector borne diseases.
World Economic Forum, February 2016
Surveillance and Response
Dr Li Ailan, Director, Division of Health Security and Emergencies at the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific has noted the need for countries to be better prepared to deal with the increasing number of [vector-borne] outbreaks by strengthening disease surveillance and response capacities. But no such coordinated and comprehensive monitoring and tracking system is in place, despite the ease with which information communication technology now make this task possible. The power of IT allows us to monitor and track indicators of mosquito borne diseases comprehensively enough to be able to contain an outbreak. and even begin to anticipate where the next likely mosquito borne disease hot spot will happen.
The keyword is comprehensive: it is impossible to contain and limit an outbreak, much less anticipate one, if data collection and analysis do not happen in real time and are siloed off from each other as they are now; when local public health officials do not have at their fingertips sufficiently detailed and timely information on which to take action to get ahead of an outbreak; when the community is not engaged and empowered to serve as an important fighting force in this battle.
Developing an early warning and alerting system for mosquito borne diseases, however requires real time data collection, data integration, and data analysis –made available to the local authorities also in real time. Current efforts such as HealthMap, ArboNet, or DengueNet passively aggregate data as they are reported in other places. To date, the granularity of the information they report is too coarse to be useful in local decision-making. The data is sometimes mapped, but these sites lack comprehensive, real time, local level analytics that include risk analysis and prediction of outbreak trajectory and severity. None, in short, serves as a standalone surveillance system that provides actionable information at the local scale so that local health officials with inadequate resources can make evidence-based decisions — to spray or not to spray, where to spray, when to spray (or vaccinate!) — that precisely target the location and neighborhood most at risk. That’s the only way an outbreak is contained and mitigated.
How are monitoring and tracking done now?
Data collection today. Worldwide, clinical data about suspected and confirmed cases of mosquito-borne diseases; lab data of the exact virus strain with which each of these cases was infected; and entomological data of the number of larvae and mosquitoes in a given area are often gathered by hand; compiled at best weekly but typically monthly; at a state or country-wide (not local) level; and are made available to local public health officials only after a delay that makes the data no longer actionable. Even in those jurisdictions that do collect this data, the information is rarely combined into one system, much less analyzed in real time.
Historical archival data by itself are worthless data.
Data integration today. Data about the number of mosquitoes per sq km., their geographic location, the virus strain with which they are infected, etc. are collected sparsely and haphazardly. And the information is never integrated into the corresponding information about suspected or confirmed clinical cases. Furthermore, even when clinical and vector control data are collected, they are rarely integrated into one monitoring and tracking system; much less are they integrated with other equally pertinent information such as weather conditions, population data such as density, environmental conditions such as vegetation density or trash sites, and demographic indicators such as travel statistics. Forecast wind direction, humidity and rainfall, population density, even conditions such as a large numbers of visitors for a sports event all offer important indicators that help manage and limit an incipient outbreak before it becomes epidemic.
But official clinical data is usually compiled at a state or province level; entomological data is kept separate in a Vector Control department; NOAA or similar agencies worldwide handle the weather data; LandSat reports vegetation data; the Census bureaus have demographic and socioeconomic data. But to obtain a global, real time picture of a local epidemiological situation so as to get ahead of it requires data that are timely and integrated.
Because fragmented, compartmentalized data are wasted data.
Analytics today. Because data collection and integration is lacking, the data are not analyzed in real time. Prediction or simulation models of mosquito-borne diseases are usually compartmentalized in university or other research institutions: even worse, most such models end up used only as academic exercises that are impossibly costly (both computationally and financially) for public health agencies worldwide to adopt and implement locally, where they are most needed. Local authorities can’t take action on dated information buried in a research paper at some university or in some journal. Or, which is worse, on data provided in a format that is just too complicated to process and tailor to local conditions in real time.
Public health officials can collect data with VectorMap. However, the VectorMap system has scant analytics built in, so to obtain statistics, risk analyses, or forecasts for the outbreak’s trajectory local public health officials must first export the data to a separate program such as Essence, Tableau, or Mosaic, to be analyzed with SPSS, SAP, or another proprietary predictive algorithm. That requires health agency personnel familiar with statistics and mathematics packages, and skilled in ArcGIS or ESRI, to process the data so that the statistical and predictive results can be presented visually as maps, tables, graphs, etc. to the decision-makers. Practically speaking that will not happen.
Because unanalyzed, unvisualized data are data local public health officials won’t find actionable.
Community Involvement today. Containing and monitoring an outbreak requires an involved public. But very few local jurisdictions have a community input and education system in place that can also serve as a two-way communication system. Any comprehensive public health monitoring and tracking system today must include such a social media module. Input received through this channel must be integrated in real time nto the other data and analyzed quickly to support concrete actions.
Data Collection, Data Integration, Analytics and Reporting
Data Collection: VectorAnalytica’s suite of web-based software programs is designed to address and remedy these present-day deficiencies by functioning as a one-stop comprehensive epidemiological surveillance system. If internet connectivity is unavailable, VectorAnalytica’s mobile apps store all information entered, then instantaneously and automatically sync all recorded data (including its GIS tag) to the web app as soon as internet connection is reestablished. Through a mobile app called VectorEntry official public health agency personnel can easily collect and store clinical, laboratory, and vector data (properly GIS identified). MosquitoTracker, the companion (free) mobile app for community use, encourages citizen awareness and participation in public health prevention by providing a channel through which to report potential mosquito breeding sites. Because it is linked to popular social media sites MosquitoTracker can also serve as a standalone or networiked public health alert system.
Data Integration: VectorAnalytica’s main analytics engine, VectorDataSynergy can integrate clinical, laboratory, and entomological data captured through any of its modules (mobile app, web app, or even uploaded from old files) with additional pertinent data continuously imported from previously identified third party data sources such as census, weather, and environmental info providers. All in real time. For the United States, 2010 Census data, historical weather data, and current Landsat vegetation data are integrated into the system. VectorDataSynergy can even upload historical “mosquito presence” data from providers such as VectorMap.
Built-in Analytics and Visualization: On a regular desktop, immediately..
Designed with local public health officials in mind, with one click the software then processes in real time. the integrated data using a variety of built-in analytics and statistical tools. Local health agencies need not purchase or have on staff personnel skilled in software such as Essence, ESRI, ArcGIS, Tableau or Mosaic, much less complex packages like SAS, SPSS, etc. VectorDataSynergy has appropriate analytics built-in including the means which to generate time series statistics, simulations, even the proprietary vector forecasting model that was recognized at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy Pandemic Working Group in September 2015. At that meeting VectorAnalytica’s model was singled out for its computational efficiency: it can process millions of data points on a regular desktop, with run times in the minutes, yielding forecasts comparable to academic models that take days to run on a supercomputer (a scarce resource in locations where these emergent diseases are prevalent).
One click instantly generates visualization tools including a wide variety of maps, graphs, histograms, barplots, time series, and tables — from the neighborhood block to the global level, and for any date range of inputted info selected. With this IT tool the software’s intended users, local health officials, can easily generate risk level analyses and epidemic spread forecasts that anticipate the direction of the outbreak. And presented visually for a better intuitive understanding of current epidemic conditions. Officials can then transmit timely and accurate information directly through mobile alerts (through MosquitoTracker, SMS, or other social media outlets), including alerts with preventive and intervention measures.
With this suite of vector surveillance software local public health officials finally have the tools to understand, monitor, anticipate, and contain an outbreak with timely evidence-based interventions. This is what it takes to limit an outbreak and minimize harm to the community.
To view this software:
Go to www.vectoranalytica.com:9990
Sign in (please note your password; we still haven’t integrated “forgot password” feature).