Mobile tech critical to Ebola eradication in Nigeria

Government leaders in Nigeria are crediting mHealth and social media technology for playing a big role in containing and eradicating the Ebola virus from the country.

A social media campaign and an Android real-time reporting smartphone app employed by health workers were integral in fostering communications and streamlining the necessary tracking of the deadly disease, Omobola Johnson, Nigerian Minister of Communication Technology, said in an mHealthNews report.

"The phone app helped in reducing reporting times of infections by seventy-five percent," Johnson said. "Test results were scanned to tablets and uploaded to emergency databases, and field teams got text message alerts on their phones informing them of the results."

The country's health officials reached 100 percent of known Ebola contacts at Lagos, the initial outbreak site, and almost 100 percent at the second outbreak site at Port Harcourt, thanks to the mHealth strategy, according to the report. The progress is also being applauded by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Vehicles and mobile phones, with specially adapted programmes, were made available to aid real-time reporting as the investigations moved forward," WHO officials stated in a situation assessment. "The use of cutting-edge technologies, developed with guidance from the WHO polio program, put GPS systems to work as support for real-time contact tracing and daily mapping of links between identified chains of transmission."

The news is just the latest example of how mHealth is helping with the global Ebola crisis.

A text app is helping Ghana pharmaceutical companies provide special product labeling to battle fake Ebola medicine, which is an increasing problem in West Africa. The PREVENT (Patients' Research, Empowerment, Vigilance, and Education Through New Technologies) program provides a unique numeric code for each prescription which patients then text to a unique short code and informs patients if the medicine is genuine or fake. In addition, a mobile communications platform in West Africa is spurring faster and more accurate data sharing among health workers on the front lines of the Ebola battle in Liberia.

Such technology will likely have a greater role as the disease spreads, as noted by Steve VanRoekel, who recently left the White House administration to head up the U.S. Agency for International Development's technology efforts in fighting Ebola. 

For more information:
- read the mHealthNews article
- check out WHO's situation assessment

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