Article Abstract

The role of digital technologies in tackling the Zika outbreak: a scoping review

Authors: Shukrullah Ahmadi, Nefti-Eboni Bempong, Olga De Santis, Danny Sheath, Antoine Flahault


The 2016 Zika outbreak in the Americas was a public health emergency of international concern. Alongside traditional approaches, several digital technologies were used to tackle this rapidly spreading global health threat. This work aimed to summarize the current state of research activity on the use of digital technologies during the Zika outbreak of 2015–2016 by providing an overview of the literature. A scoping review of publications indexed in the Web of Science and PubMed databases, published between 2016 and mid-2017 was conducted. Initial screening involved reviewing the title and abstract of identified literature before a full-text review was completed. Using a descriptive analytical method, we summarized the information presented in the studies. A total of 350 articles were screened with 57 found to describe the use of digital technologies with specific reference to the Zika outbreak. Several domains of digital technologies were identified including computational modelling (32/57), big data (including social media data) (19/57), mobile health (4/57), and other novel technologies (2/57), which were used for several purposes including disease monitoring (53/57), diagnostics (2/57) and treatment (2/57). Most articles (54/57) used a quantitative methodology. The majority of the studies (55/57) used non-experimental study designs with only two articles reporting experimental approaches. In terms of geographical focus, approximately half (27/57) of the published papers targeted the region of the Americas. This scoping review provided an overview of the current state of research on the utilization of digital technologies with specific reference to the Zika outbreak. The majority of articles reported the use of computational modelling and big data systems as core approaches, commonly dedicated to disease monitoring. Only a few studies described the use of mHealth and novel technologies. The findings indicate the potential value of digital technologies in the sphere of global health and outbreak response.