Mobile technology facilitating social distance in the middle of a pandemic

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Pedro Henrique Graciotto Pontes Ivantes and Ana Flávia Cury Ivantes, two fourth-year medical students at a university in southern Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


At the end of 2019 the world was faced with a potential enemy. Named SARS-CoV-2, the virus of the coronavirus family in just a few months went from a local danger in Wuhan in China to a devastating global pandemic. COVID-19, a disease caused by the aforementioned virus, mainly affects the respiratory tract of the infected individual, causing symptoms based mainly on fever, fatigue, dry cough, anorexia, myalgia, dyspnoea and sputum production, with diarrhea and vomiting more rare symptoms. Transmission occurs largely through the respiratory droplets of the infected individual that reach the mucosa of the new host, a very frequent event in situations of interpersonal contact and agglomerations. There is still no clear line of treatment for this infection, making management mostly symptomatic. The best weapon to fight the pandemic is to promote early diagnosis and social detachment, making mass testing indicated and implemented whenever possible.

In view of this, cities spread across the globe adopt restrictive measures aimed at decreasing the rate of transmissibility of the virus. In Brazil, the second country with the highest number of cases, where more than 2 million people are infected, technology has served as a tool to promote social isolation. Health departments have adopted a new way for individuals to follow the results of their exam without having to go to the health unit and, consequently, preventing them from contaminating other people. Through websites and applications, the population suspected of having SARS-CoV-2 infection becomes aware of the results of their examinations within their own homes, while the system itself already informs the Center for Strategic Information in Health Surveillance so that positivized are monitored in their home isolations. Consequently, the possible contacts that the infected person would have on the way to search for the results of their exams are avoided, thus decreasing the transmissibility of the disease.

As a quick systematic review by Cochrane says, it is clear that isolated measures of social distance do not have much effect. However, when combined with other safety measures, they have the ability to obtain effective control of the disease. The average transmission rate of COVID-19 can be calculated using the basic number of reproduction (R0), several studies have shown that interventions of social distance added to those of disease control decrease this rate to less than 1, which in other words means that one person transmits the disease to less than another person, a fact necessary to reduce the number of cases of the disease. It is concluded, therefore, that the implementation of the technology to visualize the results of the test for the diagnosis of COVID-19 when added to other control measures is capable of decreasing the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2, slowing down the progression of the pandemic.

References:

AQUINO, E. M. L.; SILVEIRA, I. H.; PESCARINI, J. M.; AQUINO, R.; SOUZA-FILHO, J. A.; ROCHA, A. S. et al. Medidas de distanciamento social no controle da pandemia de COVID-19: potenciais impactos e desafios no Brasil. Ciênc. saúde coletiva vol.25  supl.1 Rio de Janeiro June 2020  Epub June 05, 2020. Available from: <https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1413-81232020006702423&script=sci_arttext>. Access from: 22 july 2020.

GUAN, W.; Ni Z.; Hu Y.; et al.; Clinical characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China. MedRxiv. 2020. [Access from 22 july 2020].

MCLNTOSH, K.; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). UpToDate. Abril 2020. [Access from 21 july 2020].

NUSSBAUMER-STREIT B, MAYR V, DOBRESCU AI, CHAPMAN A, PERSAD E, KLERINGS I, WAGNER G, SIEBERT U, CHRISTOF C, ZACHARIAH C, GARTLEHNER G. Quarantine alone or in combination with other public health measures to control COVID-19: a rapid review. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2020; 4:CD013574. Access from 22 july 2020.

Secretarias Estaduais de Saúde. Brasil, 2020. [Access from 22 july 2020]. Available from:

https://susanalitico.saude.gov.br/extensions/covid-19_html/covid-19_html.html

SOHRABI C, ALSAFI Z, O’NEILL N, et al. World Health Organization declares global emergency: A review of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) [published correction appears in Int J Surg. 2020 May;77:217]. Int J Surg. 2020;76:71-76. [Access from 20 july 2020].

SUN P, LU X, XU C, SUN W, PAN B. Understanding of COVID-19 based on current evidence. J Med Virol. 2020;92(6):548-551. [Access from 20 july 2020].

About the authors

Pedro Henrique Graciotto Pontes Ivantes and Ana Flávia Cury Ivantes are
fourth-year medical students at a university in southern Brazil. Pedro is the
current president of Academic Athletic Association of Medicine in Maringá
(AAAMC), which aims at cooperation between students through social and
sporting actions, as well as promoting actions to help vulnerable populations. Ana is a member of the academic league of Gastroenterology, Maternal and Child Health and Oncology and Hematology. Both academics believe in scientific research as a source of promotion of health-related information and a quality medical future, based mainly on person-centered medical care.

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