SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

Mobile phone records may predict dengue fever epidemics

Mobile phone records may foreshadow dengue fever epidemics | Courtesy of wikipedia.org
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said Monday that its researchers found that mobile phone records may be useful in predicting and timing the geographical spread of dengue fever epidemics.

Dengue fever, the world’s most rapidly spreading disease transmitted through mosquitoes, causes bleeding, shock and sudden, high fevers. Many people who contract the illness die.

More and more people from around the globe are increasingly vulnerable to dengue fever. Experts attribute this to climate change, as this serves to extend the borders of the disease’s reach.

Since researchers discovered they can use mobile phone records to map illnesses, they have been using the data to analyze and estimate human mobility. The researchers used the largest data set from mobile phone records that has ever been analyzed. The scientists created a novel model that can predict dengue fever epidemics and offer important early warnings to health officials and policy makers.

The researchers analyzed data from a large dengue outbreak in Pakistan in 2013 and compared it to a transmission model they developed based on climate information and mobility data from call records.

“Accurate predictive models identifying changing vulnerability to dengue outbreaks are necessary for epidemic preparedness and containment of the virus,” Harvard Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Caroline Buckee  , the study’s senior author, said. “Because mobile phone data are continuously being collected, they could be used to help national control programs plan in near real time.”

Further details are available in PNAS.

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