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22 August, 2019 12:59:59 AM

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Tech to tackle dengue

Dengue outbreak
FAISAL MAHMUD, Dhaka
Tech to tackle dengue

 

With the dengue outbreak taking its toll on people’s lives in the country, the authorities and experts are looking at every possible option to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. The use of technology—specifically, crowd-sourced data on the disease—can be an excellent tool to find out the root of the Aedes mosquito population, and could thereby aid the authorities in taking appropriate measures in those specific mosquito breeding grounds, said experts.

With record dengue outbreaks this year, the use of crowd-sourced data surfaced for the first time through an initiative by some youths led by Mustakim Ahmed, an IT professional.

In any infectious disease surveillance, data through crowd-sourcing offers the opportunity to collect symptoms and related information right from the point of care.

Ahmed and his team prepared a Google Docs interviewee form, which a dengue-affected person or one who knows a dengue-affected person fills up certain information and uploads it.

On receiving data from different interviewees, a designed algorithm creates the map, wherein red circles show the area with the most dengue-affected persons in the city.

The more data the algorithm is fed, the more accurate results it produces, Ahmed said, adding that for larger data input sets, the Google Docs interview form is circulated on social media.

This concept, as implemented by Ahmed, is not new.

In the past few years, many Southeast Asian cities are researching on how new technologies, including internet tools such as social media or mobile

devices coupled with global positioning systems, can enable a new form of infectious disease information to be garnered directly from citizens.

Such crowd-sourced data evade potentially constraining infrastructure costs and regulations, can be generated in real time, and can be used to fill in gaps in health information caused by barriers in health-seeking behaviours through traditional systems, said the experts.

Furthermore, these tools can now be deployed on a scale that enables information to be garnered at a population level, experts added.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a social media-based system called Mo-Buzz that can predict where and when dengue might occur.

It combines a web system that taps into historical data on weather and dengue incidents and swift reports by the public on mosquito bites and breeding sites via smartphones and tablets. These reports are geo-tagged to the user’s location and shown live on Google Maps in the system.

This real-time information can boost the authorities’ efforts to keep a constant eye on the spread of dengue and, more importantly, help use resources more accurately and in a more targeted manner.

The system was developed by NTU at the Centre of Social Media Innovations for Communities (COSMIC), which, as its name suggests, aims to develop social media innovations to bring about self-help in a more integrated society.

Mo-Buzz is a combination of a public health surveillance web application, integrated with a social media-based mobile app. By leveraging crowd-sourcing and advanced computing, Mo-Buzz can potentially predict dengue outbreaks weeks in advance, and enable users help health authorities monitor the spread of dengue in real time using their mobile devices.

E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (ECAB), in association with five different ministries, have followed the model of Mo-Buzz and developed an app here in Bangladesh called ‘Stop-Dengue’.

Explaining the purpose of Stop-Dengue, Abdul Wahed, the secretary-general of ECAB, told The Independent: “What we’re hoping to do with a dynamic system like ‘Stop-Dengue’ is to create active channels of communication between citizens and health authorities during the dengue season.”

He said the main advantage is that it helps everyone take preventive action well ahead of time, which is what is important to prevent dengue and save lives. “If you download the Stop-Dengue app, you’ll see that there is an option of taking a photo and submitting it. If you see a potential breeding ground of the Aedes mosquito, just snap a photo and submit it. The central server will detect the location,” he said.

“This is how we will identify all the breeding grounds of mosquitoes and the send their information to the city corporations. The city corporations will take appropriate measures there,” he added.

MK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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