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This Distributed Contagion Vigilance site from 2007 includes a simulation of Virus Radar, and other explanatory and introductory materials.

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The US Government’s response to pandemic diseases has often been negligent. During the Administration of Ronald Reagan, for example, it became impossible to get funding for research on AIDS. The thinking seemed to be that AIDS was a “gay plague” and, therefore, it was a punishment from God. 

More recent figures show that this hasn’t changed that much. I compare the response to pandemic disease and the response to terrorism (I think these are 2008 figures):

CDC = "£95m for pandemic prevention last year,"

"£120bn spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. "

This is a higher than 1200 to 1 ratio.

Death from terrorist attacks, about 400/yr.

Death from AIDS about 3.1million/yr., and say 1.8 million/yr. for TB, a 
million/yr. for malaria = 5.9 million, let's add .1 for the rest, so 6 

Cause of death ratio: Pandemic Disease/terrorism = 15,000.

Total ratio of funding vs. cause of death = 17 million to 1. That is, the US 
Gov. spends 17 million USD/yr to prevent each death from terrorism for 
each USD it spends to prevent a death from pandemic disease (worldwide).

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An automated Contact Tracing and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) system would include client and server facilities. The client would be a freely available app that could be downloaded to a smartphone. This App would connect to a server in order to determine if a location had been identified as an infection risk. If a risky area was being approached, the phone would sound an alarm and display information needed to avoid infection.

Clients would also communicate directly with each other in order to avoid contact between infected and uninfected people. WiFi equipped phones could exchange information in order to determine whether a potential contact was risky. Typically, phones would exchange digital health certificates indicating that no person was infected. If a phone could not issue such a certificate or a person was not using a phone, then the person would be assumed to be a risky contact. Once penetration of the App reached a significant level, person’s not using it would be subject to social isolation. This would encourage comprehensive adoption. With comprehensive adoption, anyone not able to issue a valid certificate would be ostracized. That is, if a user of the App could not issue a valid certificate, it would be assumed they had been infected. Their approach would trigger alerts on any phones within range - about ten meters. 

Health certificates would be issued by medical facilities after evaluating the infection status of a person. 

Approximately a million USD would be needed to support application development. The application would be integrated with the CDC’s Epi Info viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) contract tracing features. On the other hand, distribution of the client to millions of phones would be virtually free. Bypassing of physical distribution would permit very rapid response in areas where public concern is high. Penetration of mobile phones in Africa is about 90%. While smartphones comprise a fraction of handsets, their rapid price decline will accelerate their adoption (smartphone growth in Nigeria is about 600% a year).

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The Virus Radar (Vidar) research proposal was submitted to the European Commission's Seventh Framework Program in 2007. The proposal was never reviewed and a complaint was finally submitted to the EU Fraud Office, but without effect. I am making the proposal and related information available in the hopes it will contribute to resolving the current Ebola outbreak. 

Proposal abstract:

Recovery of potential exposure information is a prerequisite for effective response to contagious disease. We demonstrate the feasibility of a contagion vigilance system based upon mobile telephones. Peer-to-peer networking and location-based service are used to determine the relative proximity of individuals and locations. Proximity information is automatically transferred to a database. Should a contagious agent be subsequently recognized, potential routes of contagion spread can quickly be identified. Supporting activities include syndrome-surveillance automation, user education, risk communication management, and the integration of crypto-secure data protection. State of the art is advanced in the collection of sensitive personal data, nosocomial infection control, and security for mobile devices.

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A Virus Radar app could contribute to the following PRIORITY ACTIVITIES:

OBJECTIVE 1: To achieve full geographic coverage with complementary Ebola response activities in countries with widespread and intense transmission 

34,223,000 USD - Surveillance: contact tracing and monitoring

12,114,000 USD - Social mobilization: full community engagement in contact tracing and risk mitigation

For each case it is estimated that there are 10 contacts that must be traced and monitored for 21 days. It is estimated that each contact tracer can follow 10 contacts per month. These numbers will vary for rural and urban settings. The estimated costs for contact tracing are based on a team of 100 contact tracers following 1,000 contacts per month, which costs approximately $225,450 per month, resulting in a total cost for six months of $1,352,700. In total it is estimated that approximately 160,000 contacts will need to be followed at a cost of $225 per contact.
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