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Canadians track infectious disease threats at World Cup
Date:6/10/2010

TORONTO, ON., June 10, 2010Two Canadian researchers will be keeping a close eye on what hundreds of thousands of soccer fans take to the World Cup in South Africa _ and what they potentially bring home.

Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease physician and scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and Dr. John Brownstein, an assistant professor in the Informatics Program at Children's Hospital Boston, plan to monitor and assess potential infectious disease threats to the international soccer championship that begins Friday.

The two men first combined their independently developed intelligence systems for tracking potential threats to mass gatherings during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"As global air travel becomes more accessible to the world's population, mass gatherings (like the World Cup) are increasing in both scale and frequency," said Dr. Khan. "They have the potential to attract and amplify infectious disease threats in the world."

Dr. Khan leads the BIO.DIASPORA Project, which allows researchers to study air traffic patterns and map the spread of infectious diseases. The program, created in response to Toronto's SARS crisis in 2003, accurately predicted how the H1N1 flu virus would spread around the world.

Dr. Brownstein is a co-founder of HealthMap, an on-line global disease-tracking and mapping tool that trolls the Internet for media and other early reports about outbreaks of disease. Traditional disease-monitoring systems rely on government reports, which are slower and sometimes less transparent. To view their real-time World Cup analysis online, go to http://www.healthmap.org/fifa/.

"Our epidemic intelligence efforts are designed to complement local surveillance for infectious disease epidemics within South Africa around the time of the World Cup" said Dr. Brownstein. "Additionally, we anticipate that our work will also be helpful in pl
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Contact: Leslie Shepherd
ShepherdL@smh.ca
416-864-6094
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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