WHO Credits Mobile App With Helping Nigeria Conquer Deadly Virus

Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson credited a social media campaign and a real-time reporting Android app used during the outbreak as integral in containing the deadly virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on October 20, 2014, declared Nigeria Ebola-free for 42 days. In effect, public health agencies have maintained that an mhealth initiative deserves much of the credit.

Shortly after WHO's declaration, Nigeria's Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson credited a social media campaign and a real-time reporting Android app used during the outbreak as integral in containing the deadly virus.

Speaking at the International Telecommunication Union's Plenipotentiary Conference on October 21, Johnson said: "The phone app helped in reducing reporting times of infections by seventy-five percent."

She added: "Test results were scanned to tablets and uploaded to emergency databases, and field teams got text message alerts on their phones informing them of the results."

The phone app, utilized by health workers in Nigeria, was provided by the Santa Ana, California-based non-profit organiszation, eHealth & Information Systems Nigeria.

Mobile plans among Nigerians have skyrocketed from 87 million active users four years ago to more than 131 million now, Johnson pointed out, in her statement.

Even WHO officials acknowledged the success of the nation's mHealth initiative, a collaborative effort among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nigerian government health officials and others. Health officials were able to reach 100 percent of all known Ebola contacts in Lagos, the initial site of outbreak, and nearly 100 percent at Port Harcourt, the nation’s second outbreak site.

"Vehicles and mobile phones, with specially adapted programmes, were made available to aid real-time reporting as the investigations moved forward," WHO officials wrote in an Oct. 20 situation assessment. "The use of cutting-edge technologies, developed with guidance from the WHO polio programme, put GPS systems to work as support for real-time contact tracing and daily mapping of links between identified chains of transmission."

To date, 20 cases of the Ebola virus have been confirmed in Nigeria, with eight confirmed deaths.

Myriad factors also contributed to the decline in Ebola cases, WHO officials noted. For one, the Nigerian government acted strong and fast in its response to the outbreak, setting aside "generous allocation of government funds." A virology laboratory established in Lagos, in addition to social media and radio campaigns also helped reach those vulnerable.

Some 4,877 people have lost their lives from what the World Health Organization has called the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history. Nearly 10,000 people have confirmed and suspected cases reported.

Culled from Internet Medicine

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