A team of researchers is testing out a prediction model that uses algorithms to process satellite data and provides information about potential disease outbreaks.
Antarpreet Jutla is the hydrologist and civil engineer who led a study at the West Virginia University to find out if they could help hospitals to prepare for impending outbreaks of the cholera disease in developing countries. In order to feed their prediction model, they leverage water and weather data from satellites.
Prediction data close to what actually happened later
In December, last year, Jutla presented the results of their work at the American Geophysical Union. Comparing their predicted data with actual WHO data from a Yemen area outbreak of Cholera, earlier in the same year, they found that the prediction closely resembled what really happened.
Knowing of outbreaks in advance could allow hospitals and help organizations to increase the stock of medication and vaccines, so they could prepare for the epidemic and have enough medicine to treat all the people in need. In a later stage of this predictive method, it could perhaps even prevent the disease from spreading by starting countermeasures and controlling the infection area.
Avoid panic and address root cause
Yet, this kind of information is to be treated carefully. In her detailed article on Scientific American, Sarah Derouin, closes with her final thoughts on the matter, “The team is cautious about broadcasting disease forecasts, not wanting to create public panic. They are working with several international agencies on the best way to communicate future predictions. They are also developing a platform that uses hydrologic and societal conditions to determine the probability of cholera outbreaks globally—with a goal of providing warnings that offer four weeks of lead time.”
Prediction of diseases and epidemics as a whole is a fantastic tool to prepare for severe situations but nevertheless, we must not forget to address the root cause of such disease spreading and support developing areas to prevent outbreaks for good.