Mobile phone records can predict the spread of epidemics


Mobile phone records can be used to predict the spread of Dengue epidemics, the most rapidly spreading mosquito-borne disease worldwide, a new study has found.

Researchers led by Amy Wesolowski, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health developed an innovative model that can predict epidemics and provide critical early warning to policy makers.

In creating the model, researchers analyzed data from a large Dengue outbreak in Pakistan in 2013 and compared it to a transmission model, developed based on climate information and mobility data gleaned from call records.

Telenor Research and Telenor Pakistan helped process anonymized data from nearly 40 million mobile phone subscribers, and the results showed that in-country mobility patterns could be used to accurately predict the geographical spread and timing of outbreaks in locations of recent epidemics and emerging trouble spots.

“Accurate predictive models identifying changing vulnerability to Dengue outbreaks are necessary for epidemic preparedness and containment of the virus,” said Caroline Buckee, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, and the study‚Äôs Senior Author. “Because mobile phone data are continuously being collected, they could be used to help national control programmes plan in near real time.”

As climate change expands the range of the mosquito that transmits Dengue, more and more people around the world are becoming vulnerable to this deadly virus.

The study was published in the journal PNAS.

[Via: IndianExpress]