Alertómetro: Epidemic intelligence tool during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico

  • Other
  • Vaccine preventable diseases
  • Public health surveillance
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Background:
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) constitutes the first pandemic in history in which technology and social networks are having a massive use to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected. This massive use of technologies has unleashed an infodemic, i.e. a plethora of misinformation. Epidemic intelligence is the process of identifying, verifying, analyzing, and investigating events that pose a threat to public health, including infodemic risks.

Methods:
Descriptive study of the development and use of the Alertómetro, a tool for the identification, risk assessment, validation and spread of information among decision makers. Intelligence activities are conducted by a team of epidemiologists 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The team systematically reviews formal and informal sources, in search of events of epidemiological relevance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with special emphasis on alerts identified in social networks, news, as well as from search trends.

Results:
Starting in mid-July 2020, the Alertómetro has been issued on a daily basis by the Epidemic Intelligence Unit. 280 Alertómetros has been distributed among health authorities, decision makers and spokespersons via a mobile phone application developed by the Epidemic Intelligence Unit as well, allowing key actors to have access to the circulating event along with the complete validated information.

Conclusions:
During a pandemic, misinformation can be especially harmful, tools to identify and verify misleading information are essential. The Alertómetro, issued by the Epidemic Intelligence Unit, identifies this infodemic risks and spreads truthful information among key actors in the pandemic national response, allowing to respond quickly or even anticipate the spread of fake news.

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