PloS one 2016 06 0911(6) e0155971 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0155971
Syndromic surveillance, the collection of symptom data from individuals prior to or in the absence of diagnosis, is used throughout the developed world to provide rapid indications of outbreaks and unusual patterns of disease. However, the low cost of syndromic surveillance also makes it highly attractive for the developing world. We present a case study of electronic participatory syndromic surveillance, using participant-mobile phones in a rural region of Western Uganda, which has a high infectious disease burden, and frequent local and regional outbreaks. Our platform uses text messages to encode a suite of symptoms, their associated durations, and household disease burden, and we explore the ability of participants to correctly encode their symptoms, with an average of 75.2% of symptom reports correctly formatted between the second and 11th reporting timeslots. Concomitantly we identify divisions between participants able to rapidly adjust to this unusually participatory style of data collection, and those few for whom the study proved more challenging. We then perform analyses of the resulting syndromic time series, examining the clustering of symptoms by time and household to identify patterns such as a tendency towards the within-household sharing of respiratory illness.