The Official Launch of E-community Surveillance System for Influenza-like illness (EcSS) by CUHK
Spearheaded by a research team based at the Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases (CEID) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), a brand new community surveillance system is set up to enhance public health capability in Hong Kong.
Influenza has been threatening our health and posing unexpected pressure to the public health system. While it remains difficult to entirely prevent influenza from occurring, early detection of outbreak is crucial for raising public awareness and enhancing preparedness of the society. Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. There are normally two influenza seasons in Hong Kong, which fall on Winter and Summer. It is anticipated that the next influenza season is arriving soon. Through timely detection and long term tracking of influenza-like illness (ILI), EcSS aims also to raising public awareness so that the society can be better prepared when the season comes. To encourage participation, a reward scheme would be rolled out at the same time. Details of the scheme would be available in facebook page (EcSS CUHK).
Conventional influenza surveillance rests with the diagnosis and reporting of influenza diseases. While important in its own right, there are the intrinsic problems of reporting delay. In recent years, the surveillance of ILI is becoming an important supplementary tool in epidemiology studies. ILI is often defined as a set of symptoms, notably fever and cough, which are reflective of influenza disease. The E-community Surveillance System, or EcSS in short, is designed to capture ILI signals directly from members of the pubic.
EcSS is a novel system that differs from existing ILI surveillance system in 2 ways: Firstly, current systems rely on the transferral of data from patients attending health services whereas the new system directly capture signals from the community; secondly, community participation is encouraged by inviting any member of the public to report ILI with their smart phone.
EcSS begins operation on 1 August 2011. Interested Hong Kong citizens are invited to register at www.ecss.hk by following a few simple steps. After registration, a weekly reminder would be sent to the registrants' email address. By following the link included in the email reminder, registered citizen is directed to complete a few question online concerning ILI symptoms. The whole reporting procedure would normally take less than 3 minutes. To facilitate data capture, a mobile version has been incorporated so that smartphone users can report ILI symptoms easily, irrespective of the type of device one uses.
A trial run of EcSS was conducted from March 2011. To date, participants have contributed to over 450 counts of weekly returns in an 18-week period. The ILI data collected are displayed in the Surveillance Update section in www.ecss.hk.
Long-term success of EcSS depends on the participation of the public. Effective implementation of the system would allow the research team to not just analyse current situation but also predict future pattern.