Smartphones key in the fight against Ebola virus

Smartphones key in the fight against Ebola virus

Whilst much of the UK’s National Health Service has spent the weekend grappling with a computer virus which made front page headlines worldwide, another much more serious virus was causing far more concern at the World Health Organization.  Unlike the WannaCry ransomware attack, this virus is already a household name: Ebola.  

A new outbreak of the disease that spread across West Africa in 2014/15 has been detected in a remote part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Just as we hope that the IT security professionals learn quickly from last Friday’s incident and put in place procedures to shut down future attacks quickly, we hope that Health Professionals, acutely aware of the devastation Ebola brings, have detected and intervened quickly enough to prevent another widespread tragedy across the region.

The good news is that unlike in 2014 there is far better awareness and understanding of the infection and perhaps significantly an experimental vaccine may be available. The key to responding quickly, and getting the right resources to the right people is understanding the spread of disease, and people.  Unlike computer viruses which can spread almost instantly over the internet, medical information sharing is notoriously slow.   Mobile technology may hold the answer though as even remote parts of Africa are surprisingly well connected, mobile leading the payment industry in Africa, and poor land-line infrastructure having paved the way for accelerated uptake.

Of course continuing the computer virus analogy, what you really want are effective firewalls which identify hazardous “traffic” and prevent it spreading to new areas.  The potential for diagnostics at border controls, or even patient self-testing after being in an infected area, are issues worth considering.  Such systems would provide far more insight if they were part of a coordinated network.  Given the need to scale up and down such a response quickly, piggy backing on the phone already in your pocket seems a logical way to scale and deploy resources.

Hopefully 2017 will be remembered as the year health professionals started taking IT security seriously rather than the year a fear of technology enabled another Ebola epidemic.

We hope you enjoyed my blog. If you’d like to discuss how our Novarum mobile reader technology is used to diagnose infectious disease in the field, do not hesitate to contact me

Dr Neil Polwart, Novarum DX™ Founder, and BBI Group™, Head of Mobile

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