An evaluation of the use of short message service during an avian influenza outbreak on a poultry farm in Young

Commun Dis Intell Q Rep. 2016 Jun 30;40(2):E195-201.


In 2013 an avian influenza outbreak occurred in a large poultry farm in Young (approximately 2 hours north-west of Canberra.) The responsible strain was H7N2, which is highly pathogenic and can affect humans. Daily surveillance was required for those individuals who were possibly exposed. This was conducted through the use of daily message through the short message service (SMS). A total of 55 people were identified as having had high risk exposure and requiring monitoring during the surveillance period from 16 to 25 October 2013. A SMS message was sent daily to each contact within 2 groups. (Group 1 were contacts who agreed to take Tamiflu prophylaxis, and Group 2 were contacts who were under surveillance but declined Tamiflu prophylaxis). The average daily response rate for SMS was 66% (median 75%) over a 9 day period. Of those who nominated to receive the daily SMS 98% confirmed they'd received the SMS and it reminded them to take their Tamiflu medication. The public health unit (PHU) team found the use of SMS to be less time consuming than conducting telephone follow-up interviews. The PHU team believed that the use of the technology decreased the likelihood of additional staff being required to assist in the outbreak. Utilising SMS was a new initiative for the PHU and staff found it overall easy to use. These findings confirm there can be significant benefits to using SMS during a large surveillance activity. The application of SMS during this outbreak was estimated at 2.5 times more cost effective that telephone follow-ups and would substantially reduce staffing costs further in the event of a very large outbreak.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cell Phone
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Farms*
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H7N2 Subtype
  • Influenza in Birds / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Poultry*
  • Text Messaging*