Infectieradar.be, Crowdsourcing Surveillance System to Monitor the Spread of Infectious Diseases in Belgium

Infectieradar monitors the spread of infectious diseases with the help of volunteers via the internet. In this platform individuals can report symptoms and complaints related to their health condition, and report whether they seek medical care or not.

Traditional surveillance for respiratory infections (COVID-19, influenza, etc.) relies on patients that consult physicians. However, many individuals, especially in specific age groups, do not seek health care while ill. Also, not everyone is tested. On top of this, individuals may change their health seeking behaviour over the course of an epidemic. Heightened awareness may cause people with mild symptoms to be more likely to visit, or vica versa they may not bother. Community participatory surveillance is therefore critical. With the help of people from all over the country, we can track dynamically the evolution of an epidemic. Infectieradar receives the data directly from the population, creating a fast and flexible monitoring system.


The platform is part of a larger network, Influenzanet, which implemented a standardized framework for the collection of data on the circulation of infectious diseases among the general population. This is a uniform approach of data collection across twelve European countries and allows to put the Belgian data in an European perspective.
Participants complete a background questionnaire once a year, typically at the start of the influenza season. Afterwards they receive weekly emails with a secure link to the symptoms questionnaire, asking if they have had symptoms in the past week and if so, which ones: coughing, high temperature, a runny nose and so on. It brings insights into symptom burden, and gives an estimate to the true number of cases that got infected, allowing us to monitor how health complaints are distributed in Belgium and how the situation develops over time. This data is of utmost importance for scientific research into the spread of COVID-19, but also for other viruses and infectious diseases. Government, organisations active in healthcare and the citizens of Belgium benefit from the real-time visualisation of symptom burden generated by the platform: the Belgian Government develops more appropriate control strategies and laboratories dynamically increase diagnostic testing capacity, optimize medical stockpiling and production of vaccines. The more people subscribe to the platform, the more accurate the prediction of incidence of new infection will be.

Authors

Lisa HERMANS (1), Yannick, VANDENDIJCK (1), Sarah VERCRUYSSE (1), Emiliano MANCINI (1,2), Jakob RANDA (1), Geert Jan BEX (1), Sajeeth SADANAND (3), Daniela PAOLOTTI (3), Philippe BEUTELS (4), Niel HENS (1,4) and Pierre VAN DAMME (5)

Organisations

Data Science Institute and I-BioStat, Universiteit Hasselt, Diepenbeek, België (1), Department of Global Health and Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2), Data Science for Social Impact and Sustainability Research Area, ISI Foundation, Turin, Italy (3) Centre for Health Economics Research and Modelling Infectious Diseases, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, België (4), Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute, Universiteit Antwerpen, Campus Drie Eiken, België (5)

Presenting author

Lisa Hermans, Post-doctoral researcher, Data Science Institute and I-BioStat, Universiteit Hasselt
lisa.hermans@uhasselt.be
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