UK funded early warning system detects chickenpox outbreak in Cox’s Bazar 

UK funded early warning system detects chickenpox outbreak in Cox's Bazar 

An outbreak of chickenpox in one of the world’s largest refugee camps has been detected by a UK-funded early warning system. 

While the common childhood illness is generally considered to be a low risk, the crowded conditions in the camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh create the ideal conditions for the rapid spread of the contagious disease among a population that is already vulnerable. 

More than one million Rohingya people live in the camp, having fled from Myanmar to escape what the United Nations has described a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. 

The disease surveillance system connects 168 health centres across the camp through a mobile app, allowing health workers to flag cases of contagious diseases. These illnesses are then tracked, enabling experts to identify when there could be a deadly outbreak. 

“Aid isn’t just about reacting to a crisis after the fact; we are using technology and intelligence to prevent and respond to problems before they become disasters,” said Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary.

“By responding at the first stage of a disease outbreak, rather than when it is already an epidemic, we will save more lives, more efficiently,” she added.

The Department for International Development (Dfid) has invested close to £1 million in the system, which was used last December to identify and address an outbreak of diphtheria. 

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