The ministry of Public Health and Sanitation is developing a system that uses the mobile phone short message service (SMS) to circulate information on diseases.
The director of Public Health and Sanitation, Dr Shanaz Shariff, said that the system, which is being put together by the ministry with input from the Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation, would be operational by March, next year.
Dr Shariff said the new system would circulate information on 18 diseases of major importance in the country for a start.
Apart from giving information on outbreaks whenever they occur, this service will also give symptoms of a given disease as well as statistics upon request.
“This service will help fight the spread of diseases by generating data on any disease outbreaks as they happen,” he said.
Whenever possible, the service will also help in circulating information about early warnings and prediction for appropriate action to be taken.
The director of public health said they would soon engage one of the local mobile phone service providers to help in implementing the system, which he said would be a cheap and effective means of disseminating information.
Initially, the service will provide the national situation of a given disease but with time this is expected to be refined to provide district specific statistics.
Speaking in Kisumu when he made a presentation at a conference organised by the Kenya Veterinary Association, Dr Shariff said that efforts would be made, in conjunction with the Veterinary Department, to include animal diseases that can be transmitted humans.
He said that diseases like the H1N1 virus, Rift Valley Fever and bird flu, that affect both livestock and humans are major public health concerns.
“These diseases represent 61 per cent of all human pathogens; as well as 75 per cent of emerging infections over the last decade,” he said.
Advancement in science and technology should be used to subdue some of these health challenges, said the director.