Using open-source intelligence to identify early signals of COVID-19 in Indonesia
Objective: Open-source data from online news reports and informal sources may provide information about outbreaks before official notification. This study aims to evaluate the use of open-source data from the epidemic observatory, EpiWATCH, to identify the early signals of pneumonia of unknown cause as a proxy for COVID-19 in Indonesia.
Methods: Using open-source data on pneumonia of unknown cause in Indonesia between 1 November 2019 and 31 March 2020 (extracted from EpiWATCH, an open-source epidemic observatory), a descriptive analysis was performed to identify the trend of pneumonia of unknown cause in Indonesia before official notification of COVID-19 cases.
Results: A rise in reports of pneumonia of unknown cause was identified in Indonesia, starting from late January 2020. There were 304 reported cases of pneumonia of unknown cause, 30 of which occurred before the identification of the first COVID-19 cases on 2 March 2020. The early signals of pneumonia of unknown cause in Indonesia may indicate possible unrecognized circulation of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) before official detection.
Discussion: Open-source data may provide rapid, unvalidated information for early detection of outbreaks. Although unvalidated, such information may be used to supplement or trigger investigation and testing. As EpiWATCH sources global information, this methodology can be repeated for other countries within the Western Pacific Region, and for other diseases.
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