Next COVID 19 outbreak predicted via satellite
Next COVID 19 outbreak predicted via satellite. Satellite data could be used to predict future COVID 19 outbreaks, a leading environmental microbiologist says.While satellites have been in orbit since the 1950s, it was only about 20 years ago that scientists began to harness their earth observation data to aid global public health.
In 2007, NASA was confident its satellites could “predict and prevent infectious disease outbreaks around the world”. Epidemiologists who lead in using space technology, however, say satellites could not have seen this coronavirus coming. Satellite data could be used to predict future COVID-19 outbreaks, a leading environmental microbiologist says. While satellites have been in orbit since the 1950s, it was only about 20 years ago that scientists began to harness their earth observation data to aid global public health.
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While technology may as yet be unable to predict outbreaks of unknown diseases, analysts are keeping a watchful eye from space: “I guess I would call what we do computational epidemiology,” says Colwell. “Satellites are not the be-all and end-all, but they can be a powerful predictor of potential future outbreaks,” Ford says. He says satellites help direct mitigation, such as issuing warnings in areas where outbreaks are expected or diverting medical resources. Colwell and her team created a sari cloth filtration method, rolled out in Bangladesh, to remove large amounts of cholera bacteria.
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Simply folding a sari — a long piece of material wrapped around the body to form a dress — multiple times creates a water filter that can catch many contaminants. It led to a 50 per cent reduction in cholera cases, a feat Ford calls “an incredible success story”. And in 2018 and 2019, Colwell and co-researchers Antar Jutla, an engineering professor, and Anwar Huq, a cell biology and molecular genetics professor, made predictions that enabled medical and mitigation teams to plan ahead of Yemen’s cholera outbreaks.
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The forecasting tool was able to predict with 92 per cent accuracy the high-risk geographic areas for outbreaks in Yemen. The everyday use of space technology has ceased to be the stuff of science fiction. “It’s not hypothetical any longer: it’s actual and it’s useful,” Colwell says.
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