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Early warning system for epidemics
Date:2/21/2014

Cholera has been all but eradicated in Europe, but this bacterial, primarily waterborne disease still claims thousands of lives in Africa every year. Scientists are examining the effects various environmental factors have on cholera epidemics in Uganda. As part of this work, the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Karlsruhe developed a software architecture for early warning systems that compares environmental and health data and presents the results graphically. "This allowed us to visualize the complex relationships between these factors for the first time on risk maps, leading to a better understanding of the processes," explains project coordinator Dr. Kym Watson.

The scientists use sensors to measure environmental parameters such as rainfall, exposure to solar radiation and pH value, as well as temperature and concentration of nutrients in the water. Weather and climate forecasts are also factored into the analysis. At the same time, they use mobile applications to collect health data on cholera cases from hospitals and doctors, such as where patients have been and what their symptoms are. This data is collected and stored anonymously on a central server at the health authority in the Ugandan capital Kampala. Using the new software, each case appears as a red dot on a digital map. By correlating this information with the environmental data, scientists can see how fast and how far an outbreak is spreading.

"For the first time, Ugandan officials were able to visualize and comprehend the full extent and implications of the cholera outbreaks. Prior to this, individual cases were only ever recorded manually in written lists. Decision makers are now in a position to better deploy medical resources in the affected areas, and hospitals and doctors are better prepared and can respond much more effectively," says Watson, recounting the project's successes.

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Contact: Sibylle Wirth
sibylle.wirth@iosb.fraunhofer.de
497-216-0913
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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