Saturday, August 15, 2009

Spacecraft may give early heads-up on infection trends

John Gever in MedPage Today: Satellite technology could give public health officials advance warning of disease outbreaks likely to occur as a result of global climate change, researchers said. Preliminary efforts have already produced models that predict spikes in diseases ranging from cholera to hantavirus on the basis of remote sensing data, according to Timothy Ford, PhD, of the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, and colleagues.

Writing in the September issue of the CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases, Ford and colleagues -- including Rita Colwell, PhD, former director of the National Science Foundation -- said novel patterns of infectious disease are likely to accompany the regional temperature and hydrological trends that add up to climate change.

"If climatologic data can be used to predict future disease outbreaks, public health interventions can be mobilized in a more timely and proactive manner," they said. "Successful predictive modeling of disease and the establishment of early warning systems have reached a critical junction in development. As we improve our understanding of the biology and ecology of the pathogen, vectors, and hosts, our ability to accurately link environmental variables, particularly those related to climate change, will improve."

They added, "We cannot stress too strongly our belief that a strong global satellite program is essential for future disease prediction."…

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