SMS-based Ebola Community Surveillance in Sierra Leone
In July 2015, in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak, local and international Red Cross partners used Magpi to implement a “community event-based surveillance system (CEBS) using SMS”. The community surveillance began in three districts of the country: Port Loko, Koinadugu and Bonthe.
SLRCS volunteers, both community- based volunteers and volunteer supervisors were recruited from their communities and trained in the purpose of CEBS, signs and symptoms of the chosen events and diseases, how to report the cases by SMS to SLRCS headquarter, and trained in the stages of the surveillance from the detection of the cases to the reporting, the verification and the response.
The volunteers were expected to be active in their community; inform the community about signs and symptoms and encourage the community members to report to the volunteer if they-or anyone they knew experienced any of these. The volunteers reported the suspected cases including which sign or symptom that was observed and which measures had been taken at community level, and supported the national health authorities in the response.
The CBV and VSS send an individual coded SMS right after alerting and responding with different information for data collection. The SMS is sent to a local number which is synced with the online data collection tool, Magpi via the application SMSsync. The information is then automatically combined and presented in the analytical visualizing database, Tableau.
The flow of reporting for this community surveillance system was as follows:
Of note, initial data analysis occurred in the field while data was still being collected (i.e., in real time) — a common potential benefit of SMS-based mobile data collection. In the end, despite some problems registering SIM cards, the system was found to be “an easy and rapid way of reporting”, and put forward as an example of how to use SMS for community surveillance purposes.