New Disease Tracking System for London Olympics
submitted by Luis Kun
Homeland Security News Wire - January 19, 2012
To help track and control the spread of infectious diseases at the London Olympic Games, Canadian researchers are teaming up with British authorities to develop a new system capable of tracking diseases at both the global and local level.
According to Dr. Kamran Khan, the head of a team of researchers from St. Michael’s hospital and the author of a recently published paper on infectious disease surveillance, “Systems that track infectious diseases at the global level are poorly connected to those at the local level. But by integrating them, we can create a novel and more effective approach to preventing infectious disease risks at mass gatherings, such as the Olympics.”
Existing disease tracking efforts primarily focus on an individual city or country that is hosting a mass gathering to detect and coordinate a public health response, but Dr. Khan’s approach combines new technologies that examine how individuals move within large crowds to analyze how the spread of diseases affects crowd behavior.
With the help of Dr. Khan’s Bio.Diaspora, a system that uses air traffic patterns to predict the spread of diseases, and new real-time disease tracking tools that are based online, health officials can now help direct global surveillance efforts to specific cities or outbreaks before they even begin.
“Connecting all the pieces offers us early detection of global outbreak events, an assessment of how likely these events are to enter the mass gathering venue, and an understanding of the local implications of what imported disease might do and how best to mitigate those risks,” Khan said.
In their paper, Khan and his team write, “An integrated platform of this kind could help identify infectious disease threats of international concern at the earliest stages possible; provide insights into which diseases are most likely to spread into the MG (mass gathering); help with anticipatory surveillance at the MG; enable mathematical modeling to predict the spread of infectious diseases to and from MGs; simulate the effect of public health interventions aimed at different local and global levels; serve as a foundation for scientific research and innovation in MG health; and strengthen engagement between the scientific community and stakeholders at local, national, and global levels.”
The Lancet Infectious Diseases - Infectious disease surveillance and modelling across geographic frontiers and scientific specialties