Eagle County and Flu Near You: An Innovative Partnership to Implement a Participatory Epidemiology Tool to Enhance Infectious Disease Preparedness Prior to a Mass Gathering Event
Methods: The confidential participant data collected on a weekly basis through the FNY website is aggregated on a web-based map to show the spread of influenza-like illness (ILI) across the U.S. and locally. Eagle County Public Health (ECPH) and FNY built community-specific recruitment tools to increase participation for our region. Local and national data was reviewed routinely as part of standard PH surveillance during the 2013-2014 season, alongside traditional ILI data.
Results: The FNY data detected the arrival of ILI in our county a week before the first reported hospitalized case. Spikes in FNY reports coincided with community reports of illnesses in schools and workplaces that were not detected using traditional surveillance. Though the results were anecdotal and limited by a small sample size, the early warning allowed ECPH to rapidly disseminate infection prevention messages to community partners. In addition, the novelty of the FNY program opened doors to community groups that traditionally would not have engaged in influenza prevention and control.
Conclusion: The use of a free, participatory epidemiology tool to enhance disease surveillance in a rural community demonstrated promising results. When communities are presented with high-risk events, such as a mass gathering, PH professionals should look outside of their traditional circles to leverage additional resources. With increased adoption, we expect the program will provide sustainable surveillance data to enhance the preparedness of our community for future disease outbreaks.
A. Crawley, None
O. Wojcik, None