ProMED Experts Share their Insights on Disease Surveillance and EpiCore

Our pandemics team joined thousands of global health experts and researchers to discuss major challenges infectious diseases pose to the world at the International Congress on Infectious Diseases.

Held on March 2-5, in Hyderabad, India, the conference was organized by our grantee partner, the International Society for Infectious Disease.

The organization showcased their program, ProMED-mail, which monitors emerging infectious diseases through a moderated electronic outbreak and event reporting system. This system currently has 80,000 international subscribers reporting on human, animal, and plant diseases from around the world.

Prior to the conference, ProMED-mail convened 28 subject matter experts from 21 countries to discuss how to make best use of EpiCore, a Skoll Global Threats Fund supported global disease outbreak surveillance system that aims to find and report outbreaks faster than traditional disease surveillance methods alone.

As we engaged with experts, we were able to gather insights about their work reporting disease outbreaks in their countries and how the EpiCore system could help advance their work.

EpiCore draws on the knowledge of a global community ranging from human, animal, and environmental health professionals to verify information on disease outbreaks in their geographic regions. It then connects this community with a secure online networking and reporting system.

ProMED-mail harnesses informal sources of information to generate reports of outbreaks. Its subject matter specialists, distributed around the world in 34 countries, use these unconfirmed reports to detect the earliest warning signs of an emerging infectious disease. Often these informal reports are not yet validated or confirmed when ProMED-mail initially reports them. They are posted on ProMED-mail as “requests for information” or RFIs.

To help get to the bottom of these RFIs and find outbreaks faster, EpiCore recruits volunteers around the world with experience in public health, epidemiology or infectious diseases to respond to these RFIs.

Since the launch of the EpiCore system last fall, 112 members from 37 countries have voluntarily participated in the system. EpiCore has already yielded results. Most recently, a “mystery disease” in Nigeria causing fever and serious illness in children was initially suspected to be a hemorrhagic fever. An EpiCore volunteer in the region uncovered the actual cause: measles.