Mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue and West Nile fever are a persistent public health concern in many European countries. VECMAP is a service assisting national public health agencies and regional mosquito controllers in predicting vector-related health risks and in reducing spread of disease.
It enhances and simplifies traditional distribution modelling, field and laboratory work with the help of satellite navigation and Earth observation. The VECMAP Demonstration Project is the result of a feasibility study which was successfully concluded in 2011. The prototype developed by the feasibility study is the basis of the VECMAP service platform being developed and evaluated by the demonstration project.
Diseases carried by vectors like ticks and mosquitoes are of increasing concern to the EU public health community because environmental change, international trade and travel may spread them. Mapping these risks is essential to allow the authorities to plan effectively, but the available techniques are not directly usable by most practitioners.
The VECMAP system is an integrated set of software components and supporting services which improves cost effectiveness and makes the necessary techniques available to a much wider range of technicians.
The demo project aims to establish a set of pre-operational services in support to public health agencies to more efficiently manage the arrival of invasive mosquito species, to understand better the development of the threat posed by ticks and to provide better warnings. The service platform will be evaluated by the partner end-Users, and their feedback used to further fine-tune the VECMAP system towards a ready-to market solution.
Three major user communities have been identified:
Public Health Users including public health agencies, international and non-governmental organizations who use VECMAP as decision making tool to consolidate and improve public health intervention plans. The Public Health Users involved in the project include: NIPH – National Institute of Public Health, Tirana, Albania, CMV – Dutch Centre for Monitoring of Vectors, Wageningen, The Netherlands,RIVM – National Institute of Public Health and Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands, INSA – National Public Health Institute, Lisbon, Portugal,HPA – Health Protection Agency, Salisbury, United Kingdom.
Pest control companies and commercial users who use VECMAP to improve their current operational services and products. CAA – Centro Agricoltura Ambiente “G. Nicoli », Crevalcore, Italy is involved in the demonstration project to represent this user group.
Academic users who use VECMAP in support to their activities with the objective to generate research outputs. Academic users involved in the demonstration project include: RBINS – Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium, UCL – Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (in close collaboration with the Institute of Tropical Medecine of Antwerp who participated to the feasibility study),UZH/IPZ – University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland,DTU – Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, UIB – University of the Balearic Islands, Palma de Majorca, Spain and CEH – Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, United Kingdom.
Vector borne diseases are of increasing concern to planners and decision makers in Europe. To meet this concern, Public Health, academic and commercial practitioners need to provide maps of vector distributions allowing them to assess associated disease risks and plan accordingly.
Producing these risk maps is a complex process, involving field sampling of the vectors to provide data needed to calibrate the statistical distribution modelling that delivers the risk maps. The modelling itself needs additional inputs extensively processed and standardised EO imagery.
In order to be able to carry out these procedures most Users will need them to be available as a user friendly and closely integrated set of utilities and components, supported by extensive technical backstopping from qualified technicians. VECMAP satisfies these needs, and also ensures that the cost effectiveness is optimised.
VECMAP will therefore enhance the planning capabilities, and preparedness for vector borne diseases in the EU.
VECMAP consists of both software and supporting services. The system includes three integrated software components: smartphone based field sampling and data collection; statistical distribution modelling; and a centralised GIS information system and database. It incorporates two major space assets: satellite navigation and earth observation (narrow band optical and infra-red imagery ) processed to provide environmental indicators such as climatic seasonality and vegetation index (Fig.1).
The first component implements the field sampling that establishes the vector distributions. It provides the means to design, execute and plan the logistics of field sampling campaigns using smartphone data entry applications alongside SatNav (GPS) navigation technology, using web or network data transfer to link to a centralised database for archiving and storage. In this manner the field work - often the most expensive element of such work - can be optimised and cost-effectiveness substantially enhanced.
The second component is the distribution modelling software fed by the VECMAP field sample data and using a wide range of innovatively processed Earth Observation data which are produced by the consortium and provided as a service by the VECMAP consortium. Higher resolution vector habitat models are also available as an extra service.
The third component is the Information System which is the glue that integrates all the VECMAP components and provides access to all the required supporting data as well as the means to display and analyse final mapped products. Depending on the user's needs a variety of graphical representations and interactive research is made possible through the engine for the Geographical Information System (GIS)-environment.
Expected Main Benefits:
VECMAP's unique benefit is to offer a “One-Stop-Shop” integrating all the tools needed to produce spatial risk maps from sampling to modelling and data processing and archiving, improving cost effectiveness and providing extensive technical support to the Users.
As far as is known to the consortium there is currently no other similar integrated system on the market: individual components which achieve only part of what VECMAP offers, are available, but these are usable by a very restricted set of specialist technicians, often only those who developed the individual utilities in academic or corporate settings.
VECMAP is thus an enabling system that will allow more stakeholders to directly produce and evaluate the risk posed by disease vectors and their potential spread. It will also allow existing practitioners to be more cost effective, and extend their activities to new areas or at the least maintain them in an era of declining economic resources
Demo project activities include the consolidation of the user requirements, the definition of the system requirements and related architecture, the development and testing of the system, and a pre-operational phase starting in early 2013 where the services will be extensively evaluated by the user under operational conditions.
Diseases carried by vectors like mosquitoes or ticks are an increasing public health concern in Europe, yet relatively little is known about the distribution of diseases or the vectors that transmit them to humans. As a result, effective strategic planning for control in the event of an outbreak is impossible.
There are well established techniques for mapping vectors or the risk of spread, as inputs to surveillance and control strategies. They are however complex, involving field sampling, statistical distribution modelling, and extensive satellite image processing. They are therefore available to only a few specialist technicians and are not generally accessible to the wide range of public health, research or commercial organisations which could use the risk maps produced.
VECMAP directly addresses this problem by providing a seamless ‘One-Shop-Stop” integrating the entire process of producing risk maps into a single package for a wide range of practitioners, either on their own or supported by a consortium of acknowledged leaders in the field.
Three User service modes have been identified:
On-Premise Service Mode – provided for advanced Users with all necessary expertise who would operate all VECMAP functionalities. Services will include ad-hoc training; on-line help tickets; access to data upgrades, a secured external data management platform and the VECMAP network.
On-Demand Service Mode – provided for Users such as a public health agency which wishes to operate part of the VECMAP functionalities but requires additional external expertise offered by the VECMAP consortium as a service. Examples of such services may include assistance with sampling strategy data collection; provision of EO imagery and spatial modelling services, or development of an automated data management system along with tailored Earth Observation products for vector habitat mapping.
Full-Service Service Mode – provided for Users who only require access to the final output: e.g. risk assessment maps. The VECMAP consortium acquires data, implements the entire modelling process and generates customised outputs.
Space assets are an essential and indispensible element of two major VECMAP system components.
Navigation systems provide the means to efficiently locate and travel to the vector field sampling sites to collect the distribution data that calibrates the statistical distribution models.
Earth Observation imagery is needed to construct the statistical models that underlie the distribution maps produced.
Project activities have been started in October 2011.
The user requirements collected in the feasibility study were revised by all users involved in the demonstration project, leading to a consolidated set of user and system requirements, which are addressed by the consolidated VECMAP system architecture discussed and approved at the Critical Design Review (CDR).
The first VECMAP user meeting was held on 03-04 April in Antwerpen with participation of all VECMAP users resulting in positive feedback on the proposed VECMAP solution and suggestions for additional functionalities. A set of preliminary performance indicators and user success criteria to be evaluated during the demo utilization state was also discussed.
VECMAP development activities have been initiated and they are on-going.