When the Zika virus emerged as an infectious disease, so did new data collection and reporting responsibilities for Public Health entities worldwide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently made Zika virus reportable. Public Health departments are challenged to add the disease, for the first time, to existing electronic systems, or to handle new paper-based reports of the disease. Simultaneously, Public Health offices at state and local levels are being inundated with urgent calls from the community and healthcare providers. People have questions and concerns about Zika.
“This presents political as well as technological hurdles for Public Health departments. They were not collecting Zika virus data before. They had no reason to. It’s an emerging, infectious disease,” says Gwen Bell, Atlas Medical epidemiologist and project manager.
“And Public Health feels very responsible for the health of people who live in their jurisdictions. They are charged with helping people and getting precise health alerts out to the public and medical community,” she adds.
Public Health Officials Turning to ATLAS
Zika, a disease caused by the Zika virus, spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, according to the CDC. There is currently no vaccine to prevent it. And the virus poses a threat to pregnant woman, the CDC adds, since it appears to be linked to a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (causing a baby’s head to be smaller than expected).
Public Health’s vast responsibilities range from advising travelers to disease prevention and tracking activities. More and more Public Health agencies are turning to Atlas Medical for support of their new Zika-related surveillance, data collection, and case management activities.
“Public Health Departments are telling us at ATLAS about their challenges. They have Zika data coming in. And they very quickly need a place to collect and analyze it,” says Tanya Oemig, Atlas Medical epidemiologist and project consultant.
ATLAS WorldCare Captures Zika Data
Atlas Medical offers Public Health agencies a flexible solution called WorldCare Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Management. The application supports Public Health jurisdictions in their pressing challenges to collect, analyze, and report data about risk, exposure, incidence, and transmission of Zika virus infections. It also enables capture of data relative to other emerging diseases such as Ebola, H1N1 influenza, and over 100 reportable diseases and chronic conditions.
The application’s workhorse is its flexible form for data collection and transmission to local and state health departments and then to the CDC. No FAX notifications and paper reporting are needed.
Fast Service to Public Health Agencies
The forms, using Visio templates, can be customized by Atlas Medical experts in just a few hours and are then available for quick implementation by Public Health teams.
Importantly, the Atlas Medical team, with decades of experience in Public Health as well as information technology, knows how important it is to adapt to changes. Clinical and epidemiological information continually emerge for both existing reportable and novel diseases.
This means surveillance, tracking, and case management data elements will likely need to be adjusted. The system is flexible, giving users an ability to create, modify, and file electronic forms to easily adapt to changes.
“The main thing is Public Health can adapt quickly. It is not only the intake of data. It is also the analysis of data. Once data are captured, we can help make them useful,” explains Ayham Abbasi, Atlas Medical product manager. “There are flexible reporting mechanisms to allow users to set up data by topic. But the product is not only about looking at data; it also has features to guide and document case management and contact investigations,” he continues.
More Possibilities with ATLAS Solution
Indeed, there is so much possible with the ATLAS WorldCare solution. Public Health leaders can assess case counts and geographical distribution of disease incidents or outbreaks. The application’s versatility enables reporting across various demographics: gender, age group, ethnicity, and location, to name a few.
Tools are built in to make reporting and sharing data with other agencies easy. The ATLAS solution also facilitates ongoing patient care and follow-up when case management is needed.
“For this particular disease, there is no treatment. There is no vaccine. There is no prevention other than mosquito eradication and that pregnant women should not travel to certain countries. So, Public Health agencies are looking at countries where people have traveled, finding out the outcome of a pregnancy and results of lab tests,” Tanya explains.
Lab testing is specially done by testing serum or plasma to detect the virus, viral nucleic acid, or virus-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) and neutralizing antibodies, the CDC points out on its web site.
Animal Reporting Module Also Available
“With the Zika virus, it’s possible that in the future the virus could actually be in our mosquitos. Public Health is also charged with monitoring and testing mosquito pools as well as with mosquito eradication programs,” Gwen explains. “If there is evidence that Zika virus is being transmitted in the U.S. by mosquitos here, those jurisdictions will have to move very quickly and more intensively to monitor the disease.”
Fortunately, Atlas Medical also offers the Animal Reporting Disease Surveillance Module to aid agencies needing to track test results for insect vectors of disease.
ATLAS Solution Serves Worldwide Needs
Atlas Medical is reaching out to state and county Public Health entities nationwide as well as internationally. Multiple local and state Public Health jurisdictions across the U.S. as well as a Canadian province rely on ATLAS solutions for tracking and reporting disease as well as documenting case management activities.
Consistent with its name, WorldCare, the ATLAS solution also suits countries working to track and assess diseases and Public Health issues worldwide.