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New methodology to predict pandemics
Date:2/14/2013

NEW YORK February 13, 2013 EcoHealth Alliance, the nonprofit organization that focuses on local conservation and global health issues, announced new research focused on the rapid identification of disease outbreaks in the peer reviewed publication, Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The article, authored by leading scientists in the fields of emerging disease ecology, biomathematics, computational biology and bioinformatics, shows how network theory can be used to identify outbreaks of unidentified diseases. The strategy builds on the wealth of online surveillance data and increased reporting and tracking of emerging infectious diseases via the Internet. Pandemics often first emerge in remote regions, and early in their development, the identity of the cause is often unknown. In many cases these events turn out to be known diseases that don't require emergency action, and cutting through the clutter and uncertainty to determine which outbreaks are important is a critical challenge.

The newly released research used a simple set of data collected at the earliest stages of an outbreak such as symptoms, time of year, and percentage of the population that died (the case fatality rate). This information was collected from 125 reports of outbreaks on 10 known infectious diseases causing encephalitis (brain or neural infection) in South Asia a known 'hotspot' for new disease outbreaks. The data was analyzed to examine whether outbreaks of the same disease clustered together, based on basic outbreak properties (symptoms, timing and case fatality rate). Results showed that diseases such as Nipah virus an emerging and very lethal disease showed distinct characteristic patterns within such a network and clustered separately to other more established diseases such as malaria and Japanese encephalitis. The team was then able to take outbreaks caused by unknown pathogens and provide a probable diagnosis for these 'mystery diseases'. The in
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Contact: Anthony M. Ramos
ramos@ecohealthalliance.org
212-380-4469
EcoHealth Alliance
Source:Eurekalert

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