The projected roll-out of a new state-of-the-art surveillance and response system (eIDSR) next month could not have come at a better time. This is yet further testimony that health officials in the country have come of age to ensure that the population accesses the best possible healthcare.
Early recognition and detection of infectious diseases like cholera, Ebola, malaria, among others, is important for two reasons. First, it is vital both for effective initiation of public health intervention measures and timely alerting of government agencies and the general public besides allowing healthcare providers to administer effective treatment in a timely manner. Second, it minimises the risks for transmission of the disease causing organisms to other parts of the country.
In the recent past, there has been an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in neighbouring countries, namely, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has caused needless anxiety among the population especially in areas bordering the said countries. Hence, through the new system, this would rest public anxiety as it would be possible to accurately determine if the country harbours a casualty of the disease or any other illness for that matter.
Rwanda may have in the past lacked an elaborate public health infrastructure to identify outbreaks at their earliest stages hence the importance of the new system in revolutionising how epidemic intelligence is gathered, and offering solutions to some of the challenges our healthcare system may have encountered then.
However, it is essential for the new disease surveillance system to be able to detect unusual pattern of the aforementioned diseases. The Ministry of Health should also ensure that health officials at all districts have the requisite knowledge and resources to effectively respond to reports of mysterious illnesses.