The Digital Technology Fighting Epidemics

Medical technology is helping professionals to monitor epidemics and better battle their spread.

by: Juliet Van Wagenen

Widely and quickly spreading diseases are a huge concern for medical professionals everywhere. While treatments are still in development, technology can help mitigate some concern when it comes to tracking and effectively tackling these ailments.

Computer Modeling Creates More Effective Strategies

Early in March, IBM announced a partnership with public health agencies to help Taiwan and Panama battle two mosquito-borne illnesses that are also causing concern in the U.S.: Zika virus and dengue fever.

Computer modeling developed with the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) aims to better predict the effectiveness of intervention methods on dengue fever. As researchers for the Taiwan CDC look to a strategy that will make it more difficult for mosquitos to carry the virus by introducing a natural bacterium into the population, IBM computer modeling will look to simulate the bacterium’s impact on the mosquito population and rates of dengue among humans.

“IBM also created models that examined correlations between various factors, such as the relationship between a village’s education level and the number of local mosquito eggs, and the relationship between temperature and larva level,” a press release notes, adding that the ultimate goal is to help the Taiwan CDC make more informed decisions around battling the disease.

Using GIS to Map Epidemics

Zika, another mosquito-borne illness, is proving to be an ever-more urgent threat to the U.S. and other populations, but GIS mapping can help. The U.S. CDC is using geographic information systems, which integrate data from several sources to create a picture around a specific issue, to track and better combat the Zika virus, FedScoop reports. The CDC has put out a publicly available interactive map to provide states with information about the spread of the virus.

“Everything happens somewhere, and that somewhere actually turns out to be really important. In health, place can determine a lot of different things,” Este Geraghty, chief medical officer and health solutions director for Esri, the company responsible for developing the CDC’s map, told FedScoop. “When you think about Zika, it can determine your risk for getting the disease. It can determine if you have access to health care. And in a lot of places it might determine what your likelihood is of a good outcome, even if you have health care.”

Meanwhile, in Panama in February 2017, IBM partnered with the Gorgas Memorial Institute

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