SAPRIN community surveillance – extending the update to include a COVID-19 module and capitalizing on ability to conduct telephonic surveys.
In late 2019, a cluster of cases of severe pneumonia were identified in China, now known to be caused by a newly identified virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This cluster of cases quickly spread worldwide, causing severe disease and a high mortality rate in the elderly, those with chronic co-morbidities, and the immunosuppressed. The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported its first cases on the 5th of March 2020, and by 18 May 2020 had reported 15 515 cases with 264 deaths. Critical to effective prevention, control, and response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic will be a nationally coordinated system of disease surveillance, to enable both rapid detection of transmission geography and allocation of scarce prevention and intervention resources to areas of highest need. The South African Population Research Infrastructure Network (SAPRIN) is a well-positioned partner to take on this surveillance exercise. It is a Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)-funded national network of health and demographic surveillance research infrastructures, hosted by the SA Medical Research Council. SAPRIN has three nodes (in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal) running a longitudinal whole population platform, and are able to rapidly leverage their ongoing household health and socio-demographic surveillance to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic monitoring and response, through the provision of accurate information about outbreak knowledge, spread, and impacts should COVID-19 penetrate the rural communities where SAPRIN operates.
In the MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit, which runs the Mpumalanga node, we added a COVID-19 specific questionnaire to our telephonic surveillance with a proxy in each household (~20 000 households), starting from May 2020, as well as a more indepth fortnightly surveillance of 750 households for 2 years.