Maasai vets in East Africa are using mobile phones to monitor diseases including anthrax and rabies as part of a partnership involving London-based academics.

Maasai vets in East Africa are using mobile phones to monitor diseases including anthrax and rabies as part of a partnership involving London-based academics.
 
The new project, taking place central Kenya, is being led by Vetaid and backed by a team that includes members of the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and other London-based academics. The project has also received support from Google UK, which donated 23 G1 Android devices to the surveillance effort.
 G1 Android
The Google mobile phones are helping to record how diseases are spreading in order to bolster preventative action, including vaccination campaigns.
 
The project relies on the EpiCollect software developed by researchers from Imperial College London. This mobile data collection tool has been loaded onto the devices, allowing the vets to upload their findings to a central website, which plots where diseases are occurring.

Data relating to more than 86,000 animals from 1,600 farms has already been logged via the mobile phones in the last month. A wide range of diseases are being monitored, including:

     •    East coast fever;
     •    Anthrax;
     •    Rabies;
     •    Peste des petits ruminants (PPR); and
     •    Foot-and-mouth disease.

The  project teamThe phones have also been loaded with a range of educational resources, including photos and videos, for veterinary fieldworkers.

Nick Short, a founder of Vetaid and head of eMedia at the RVC, said: “Mobile phones are now commonplace in Africa and their use for disease monitoring and control can provide enormous benefits to animal and human health in the future.”

Surveillance team leader Gabriel Turasha, a Maasai vet and regional coordinator for Vetaid in East Africa, said: “The mobile phones are really improving real time access to information. You can send a message to report an outbreak.”
 
David Aanensen, one of the researchers behind the EpiCollect software, said: “We’re really excited that our software is being put to such good use in East Africa. We hope our tool will help the vets and farmers get a much clearer picture of the diseases that are affecting their animals. Ultimately, this should make it easier for them to treat these diseases – either directly or through vaccination – and to target resources where they are most needed.”

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