Evaluation of the EpiCore outbreak verification system

Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Volume 96, Number 5, May 2018, 297-368
http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/96/5/en/

Research
Evaluation of the EpiCore outbreak verification system
Taryn Silver Lorthe, Marjorie P Pollack, Britta Lassmann, John S Brownstein, Emily Cohn, Nomita Divi, Dionisio Jose Herrera-Guibert, Jennifer Olsen, Mark S Smolinski & Lawrence C Madoff
Abstract
Objective
To describe a crowdsourced disease surveillance project (EpiCore) and evaluate its usefulness in obtaining information regarding potential disease outbreaks.
Methods
Volunteer human, animal and environmental health professionals from around the world were recruited to EpiCore and trained to provide early verification of health threat alerts in their geographical region via a secure, easy-to-use, online platform. Experts in the area of emerging infectious diseases sent requests for information on unverified health threats to these volunteers, who used local knowledge and expertise to respond to requests. Experts reviewed and summarized the responses and rapidly disseminated important information to the global health community through the existing event-based disease surveillance network, ProMED.
Findings
From March 2016 to September 2017, 2068 EpiCore volunteers from 142 countries were trained in methods of informal disease surveillance and use of the EpiCore online platform. These volunteers provided 790 individual responses to 759 requests for information addressing unverified health threats in 112 countries; 361 (45%) responses were considered to be useful. Most responses were received within hours of the requests. The responses led to 194 ProMED posts, of which 99 (51%) supported verification of an outbreak, were published on ProMED and sent to over 87 000 subscribers.
Conclusion
There is widespread willingness among health professionals around the world to voluntarily assist efforts to verify and provide supporting information on unconfirmed health threats in their region. By linking this member network of health experts through a secure online reporting platform, EpiCore enables faster global outbreak detection and reporting.