Latest News

  • 04 October 2010
    via The Nation's Health In the midst of the H1N1 flu pandemic in Mexico in May 2009, almost ...
    Read More
Public health workers using new means to track, predict flu: Staying ahead of influenza outbreaks

via The Nation's Health

In the midst of the H1N1 flu pandemic in Mexico in May 2009, almost 1 million cell phone users received a text message asking about their flu experiences. More than 50,000 responses were received, and the surveillance method proved to be a timely, low-cost way to collect data on the fast-moving virus.

The Mexico effort is just one example of the many innovative techniques health workers are using to paint a more detailed portrait of how influenza spreads. From online surveys to automated disease mapping systems to flu-related Internet searches, keeping track of the flu — as well as other infectious diseases — is slowly moving out of the exclusive purview of the professional arena and into the public domain. The new methods are seen as complementary to traditional disease reporting and surveillance, which still reign in regard to accuracy.

In Mexico, health workers were hoping the text messaging effort would offer a clearer picture of the emerging H1N1 flu strain, said Martin Lajous, MD, MS, a researcher at the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, Mexico, who is coordinator of the effort. Contacting one of the country’s major telecommunications companies, Lajous persuaded the company to send a text message inviting a random sample of customers to take a flu-related survey. About 6 percent of recipients answered the invite, reporting their symptoms, age, vaccination history and other information. While the survey had its limitations, Lajous said the effort found “signals that were consistent with what was observed in the traditional surveillance system.”

Read the full article here...