A data platform to improve rabies prevention, Sri Lanka.
De Silva AP., Harischandra PL., Beane A., Rathnayaka S., Pimburage R., Wijesiriwardana W., Gamage D., Jayasinghe D., Sigera C., Gunasekara A., Cadre M., Amunugama S., Athapattu PL., Jayasinghe KSA., Dondorp AM., Haniffa R.
PROBLEM: In Sri Lanka, rabies prevention initiatives are hindered by fragmented and delayed information-sharing that limits clinicians' ability to follow patients and impedes public health surveillance. APPROACH: In a project led by the health ministry, we adapted existing technologies to create an electronic platform for rabies surveillance. Information is entered by trained clinical staff, and both aggregate and individual patient data are visualized in real time. An automated short message system (SMS) alerts patients for vaccination follow-up appointments and informs public health inspectors about incidents of animal bites. LOCAL SETTING: The platform was rolled out in June 2016 in four districts of Sri Lanka, linking six rabies clinics, three laboratories and the public health inspectorate. RELEVANT CHANGES: Over a 9-month period, 12 121 animal bites were reported to clinics and entered in the registry. Via secure portals, clinicians and public health teams accessed live information on treatment and outcomes of patients started on post-exposure prophylaxis (9507) or receiving deferred treatment (2614). Laboratories rapidly communicated the results of rabies virus tests on dead mammals (328/907 positive). In two pilot districts SMS reminders were sent to 1376 (71.2%) of 1933 patients whose contact details were available. Daily SMS reports alerted 17 public health inspectors to bite incidents in their area for investigation. LESSONS LEARNT: Existing technologies in low-resource countries can be harnessed to improve public health surveillance. Investment is needed in platform development and training and support for front-line staff. Greater public engagement is needed to improve completeness of surveillance and treatment.