Information gaps in surveillance data and effects on the Ghanaian response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Background: Complete and accurate information on disease occurrence is crucial for effective public health response to disease outbreaks. In response to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Ghana intensified surveillance for the disease across the country. However, the case definition provided by the Ministry of Health was not uniformly applied at all reporting health facilities.
Objective: This paper analyses the accompanying Case Record Forms (CRFs) submitted to Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research to determine its completeness and appropriateness for instituting an effective response to the epidemic.
Methods: We determined the proportions of completeness in reporting for all criteria provided by the MOH for the clinical diagnosis of Ebola. New indicators were generated to measure the completeness of each variable. Tables and graphs of completeness of indicators were produced and presented.
Results: Of the 156 samples, 69% were from males. Approximately 4.5% had no record for age. The date of specimen collection was filled for 96%; 34.6% (54) did not have date of onset of symptoms. In 37.8% (59) of cases, location was blank. In 12% of cases, no symptoms were recorded and about 30% had no record of fever. Travel history, especially to affected areas, was missing for 40.4%.
Conclusions: Gaps on CRFs can significantly reduce the utility of results of laboratory analysis for outbreak control. Although all the samples analysed were negative for Ebola Virus, the high proportion of missing data on the forms should be a source of concern. We recommend that frontline health staff be trained on the importance of capturing all information required on the form.
Source of funding: The funding for the analysis of suspected samples were provided partially by Ghana Health Servce and research funding from Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research
Keywords: Ebola Virus Disease, Data Gaps, Ghana, Ministry of Health, Symptoms