Mammoth Ebola Database Being Implemented to Curb Outbreaks
When the deadly Ebola virus ripped through West Africa between 2014 and 2016, more than 11,000 lives were lost. Yet, clinical staffs are still lacking vital data that will enable them to accurately identify the disease when a patient enters into a clinic.
In a bid to eradicate this problem, researchers have come up with the idea of developing a platform that would allow previously unobtainable Ebola-related data to be organised and shared coherently. The Infectious Disease Data Observatory (IDDO) is behind the coordination of the information system and it is expected to be released by the end of 2017.
According to John Amuasi, an infectious disease researcher at the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine, Africans need to be involved in the creation of the platform to enable them to not only utilise the current data but to further the research during future outbreaks.
Such a partnership between the developers and the users will boost the general public’s opinion of scientists which was tarnished when a malicious widespread rumour claimed that the disease was a fabricated experiment conducted by the West.
Why the need for Ebola database?
Data fragmentation severely hampered efforts to contain the Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. As the crisis was mounting, the attempts to merge and examine information were complicated unnecessarily by variations in practices. An example of these variations are the discrepancies between record books: some would list hiccups and lethargy as symptoms while others would record fatigue but make no mention of the hiccups. Individuals were gathering whatever information they could while private institutions were keeping their data to themselves.
Should another outbreak hit Africa the continent simply cannot afford to be ill-prepared again. Even if the Ebola virus is completely removed from the equation, West Africa is in desperate need of improved health care structures that enables staff to educate people on aspects such as the importance of healthy eating, personal hygiene, and disease control.
The IDDO received trial funding from a UK charity in 2015 which is enabling them to organise anonymous data collected from the medical record of Ebola patients, both fatalities and survivors as well as data pertaining to public health initiatives and clinical trials. A copy of the database will be housed in West Africa and an African committee will be in charge of granting access to qualifying parties.
It is imperative that the necessary structures are put in place now before another outbreak hits the African continent. Scientists, researchers and medical staff will need rapid access to relevant data as soon as the virus surfaces again so that the necessary steps can be taken within hours rather than months to ensure the least number of infections and fatalities.
Lucy Wyndham worked in care home management for over a decade before taking a step back and moving into writing. When not working, she loves spending time with her family and walking her pet dogs.