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Symptom tracking ‘vital’ to control contagion of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico

A coalition of academic and private-sector organizations has unveiled the Epidemiological Surveillance System platform, which allows the tracking and publishing results on the evolution of COVID-19 contagion in Puerto Rico.

The platform’s creators include the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust, a program of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, Ponce Health Sciences University and collaboration from Harvard University.

“During this year, the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust has achieved important alliances and collaborations to improve the health equity of Puerto Rico’s communities and make health services more accessible,” Science Trust CEO Lucy Crespo said.

“We must highlight that, in the face of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, this collaboration with Ponce Health Sciences University, which allows creating solutions to this epidemic, has been one of the most important,” she said.

The COVID-19 Epidemiological Surveillance System, a project led by epidemiologist Melissa Marzán from Ponce Health Sciences University, is a platform designed to track people’s symptoms as they arise.

The results obtained via a survey serve to determine the geographic area of ​​greatest symptoms, development profiles, present symptoms, days in which symptoms appear, how long symptoms last and the spread of the virus. This information allows daily monitoring of the development of the novel virus and the prediction of the disease contagion curve to take measures in advance.

“This initiative promotes the ‘citizen scientist’ figure and allows us to monitor the symptoms associated with the virus and identify possible areas of higher incidence of COVID-19,” Marzán said.

“This allows us to more effectively plan medical and preventive services for the different regions of Puerto Rico,” she said.

According to official data, since its launch on Mar. 17, 2020, more than 38,000 people have participated, and the most relevant results show a slight trend of increasing symptoms associated with COVID-19 from Mar. 18-26, 2020.

What these findings represent for the public is the opportunity to observe the development of symptoms throughout the different areas of the island, to take a closer look of the behavior of the virus in the community and have data for future planning of prevention services.

“Data is a powerful tool that allows us to make sound decisions and can prevent the spread of this disease and save lives,” said José Rodriguez-Orengo, acting director of the Health Trust.

“This synergy between Ponce Health Sciences University and the Health Trust will be the spearhead for scientists to find real and quick solutions to avoid contagion and more deaths from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico,” he said.

“It’s important that the community continue to participate of this survey on a daily basis and help us control this contagious disease,” Rodríguez Orengo said.

The Ponce Health Sciences University and the Health Trust will continue to develop and promote the platform and have already confirmed that it will be used in other cities in the continental United States, such as Boston, Massachusetts and Tampa, Florida, among others.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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