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Researchers develop tool to assist areas of infectious disease outbreaks
Date:4/10/2013

  • Exit-screening at 36 airports would have assessed all air travelers at risk of transporting H1N1 out of Mexico at start of 2009 pandemic
  • Screening at 99 per cent of the world's international airports could have been forgone with negligible missed opportunities to prevent or delay the spread of disease
  • Screening at just eight airports worldwide would have led to the assessment of 90 per cent of all at-risk air travelers

TORONTO, April 10, 2013Researchers have developed a simple new tool to help governments worldwide decide whether to screen airplane passengers leaving or arriving from areas of infectious disease outbreaks.

The tool was developed by examining all international airplane traffic in the initial stages of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

Researchers led by Dr. Kamran Khan of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto found that that a focused and coordinated approach to screening airplane passengers would generate the greatest public health benefits. Furthermore, they found that screening travelers as they leave an area where an infectious disease outbreak is under way is far more efficient than screening passengers when they land at their final destination.

It is also much less disruptive to international travel and the global economy, they wrote in the May issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

After the 2003 SARS outbreak, 194 countries agreed to the International Health Regulations, a global treaty designed to prevent, protect against and control the spread of infectious disease without putting unnecessary restrictions on international travel and trade. Until now, it's been unclear how governments should balance those competing demands.

Dr. Khan, an infectious disease physician and founder of BioDiaspora, uses global air traffic patterns to predict the international spread of infectious disease. This web-based technology has been used by numerous international agen
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Contact: Leslie Shepherd
shepherdl@smh.ca
416-864-6094
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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