Smart phones aren’t just first-world technology anymore. This and other 21st century devices are helping revolutionize Africa’s livestock industry by providing instant access to track animal vaccinations, animal disease outbreaks and more.

EpiCollect: Tracking animal vaccinations, treatments
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has partnered with the Royal Vertinary College and local NGO Vetoid to pilot testing of EpiCollect, a mobile phone application used to track animal vaccination and treatment campaigns.

“FAO and partners are piggy-backing on this enormous uptake of mobile phone technology for uses in reporting animal disease outbreaks, tracking vaccination campaigns and the delivery of veterinary treatments, such as deworming animals,” Robert Allport, FAO Kenya’s Assistant FAO Representative for Programme Implementation said in a report available here. “Cellular phones eliminate delays in receiving field data, since all the information is relayed via the mobile network,”

In Kenya, 75% of people have a mobile phone, and with EpiCollect, national veterinary officials and field veterinarians will be able to transmit information to a secure database in real-time. Currently this program is available for field veterinarians with phones provided by Google Kenya, but eventually EpiCollect could be made available to a wider network of people, including village elders and community animal health workers.

EMPRES-i: GPS for animal diseases
In addition to EpiCollect, FAO has also announced a Global Animal Disease Information System called EMPRESI-i. When EMPRESI-i is used in tandem with an FAO app, reports on animal disease outbreak can be fed into a database with pinpoint accuracy.

Using the app and EMPRESI-I, both veterinarians and producers could instantly issue and receive alerts about possible animal disease outbreaks during early stages, even in remote locations previously inaccessible.  

“The FAO EMPRES-i system is truly a global public good, and our reporting and response times are being constantly improved, now thanks to incredible technology,” said Juan Lubroth, the FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “Prevention, preparedness and early response are powerful concepts that when translated into tools can be effectively used against infectious diseases, thereby safeguard people’s livelihoods, fend off hunger and, in some cases, human illness.”

Currently the app is scheduled to be tested by Ugandan veterinary services in the first half of 2013. Read “Cell phones revolutionizing Kenya’s livestock sector.”

Technological surveillance not just in Africa
While technology to track outbreaks and vaccination programs is being tested in Africa, similar options hit closer to home. In the latest issue of Bovine Veterinarian, editor Geni Wren looked at a unique program currently being piloted in New Mexico and Texas to better equip practitioners with tools to relay a variety of a animal health information in near real-time for surveillance in any location.

The National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD Center) and Texas Center for Applied Technology (TCAT, a part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station), are among the partners working together to develop syndromic surveillance program.

“Our centers developed two products that work in unison,” FAZD Center Director Tammy Beckham, DVM, PhD, said. “One is a data-sharing technology we call AgConnect. The other is a related iPad application that allows for real-time reporting and data analysis, which we call the Biosurveillance Field Entry System (BFES). Without these products, it would be very difficult to succeed with this project.”

Read,“Syndromic surveillance - a key to disease monitoring.”