African nations fighting outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever are getting help from U.S. disease detectives and a new software tool to quickly find people exposed to the deadly virus.
The new tool developed at the
This task, called contact tracing, is an essential step in breaking the chain of disease transmission and ending an outbreak. In addition to helping trace contacts, the tool assists with the collection and management of epidemiologic, clinical and laboratory information for every case. These data are crucial for developing outbreak countermeasures, CDC said.
The Epi Info VHF tool is specifically designed for outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, Marburg,
"With a disease as often fatal as Ebola, quickly identifying and following up with those who may have been exposed is key to saving lives and containing the outbreak," said CDC Director
CDC began developing the VHF application for Epi Info after the 2012 Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in
Upon returning from the field, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer
Schafer worked on four outbreak responses in 2012 -- three Ebola outbreaks and one Marburg outbreak. She was responsible for creating and maintaining centralized databases for all case epidemiologic, clinical and laboratory information collected by international response partners, including national ministries of health, Doctors without Borders (MÉdÉcins sans FrontiÈres), CDC and the
She served on the CDC/WHO team recently deployed to
"As Ebola outbreaks are rare, this is the first time we're getting to put this tool through its paces," said CDC Epi Info team lead
An earlier version of the Epi Info VHF tool was given in
Epi Info software is used globally for rapidly assessing disease outbreaks and for speeding disease detection and response. CDC said that developing the VHF tool on the Epi Info platform was more timely and cost-effective than contracting for development of a specialized system. The agency anticipates that once the VHF tool becomes a standard feature on Epi Info, it will be available cost-free to be adapted for future public health needs.
This innovation was the result of collaboration between CDC's Epi Info team in the
Its release coincides with the launch of the U.S. Global Health Security Agenda to strengthen national security by helping other nations prevent, detect and effectively respond to disease outbreaks.
Over the next five years, the initiative will strengthen the health infrastructure of at least 30 partner countries with 4 billion citizens. CDC has invested
Ebola virus is transmitted through direct physical contact with body fluids of an infected person including blood, saliva, stool, urine and sweat, as well as direct physical contact with objects that have been contaminated by the infected body fluids, such as needles and soiled linens. Outbreaks can spread rapidly, with easily misdiagnosed initial symptoms such as fever, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting and an incubation period as brief as two days and as long as three weeks.
For more information about the current outbreak of Ebola in
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