Saturday February 16, 2019

Googling About Symptoms Can Predict Disease

The study was found by using digital surveillance through search engine algorithms such as Google Trends and Google Insights

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Google users
Google unveils new shopping search features for Indian users. Pixabay

Irritated at recurring symptoms? Searching for an online diagnosis on google is not a bad idea before visiting the doctor.

The habit of searching on internet for an online diagnosis before visiting a doctor can provide early warning of an infectious disease epidemic, says a study.

In the study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, internet-based surveillance has been found to detect infectious diseases such dengue fever and influenza up to two weeks earlier than traditional surveillance methods.

“This is because traditional surveillance relies on the patient recognising the symptoms and seeking treatment before diagnosis, along with the time taken for health professionals to alert authorities,” said Wenbiao Hu, senior research fellow at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia.

Representational image.
Representational image. IANS

There was often a lag time of two weeks before traditional surveillance methods could detect an emerging infectious disease. “In contrast, digital surveillance can provide real-time detection of epidemics,” Hu added.

The study found by using digital surveillance through search engine algorithms such as Google Trends and Google Insights, detecting the 2005-06 avian influenza outbreak ‘Bird Flu’ would have been possible between one and two weeks earlier than official surveillance reports.

“In another example, a digital data collection network was found to be able to detect the SARS outbreak more than two months before the first publications by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” he said.

Also Read: Know Your Labour Signs

Early detection means early warning and that can help reduce or contain an epidemic, as well alert public health authorities to ensure risk management strategies such as the provision of adequate medication are implemented, the study noted.

Hu said social media tools including twitter and facebook could also be effective in detecting disease outbreaks.

“There is the potential for digital technology to revolutionise emerging infectious disease surveillance,” he added.  (IANS)

Next Story

The World Looks Forward To Eradication Of Hepatitis C By 2030

Offering direct-acting antivirals to all patients at the time of diagnosis could prevent 640,000 deaths from liver cancer and cirrhosis by 2030

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the new Hepatitis B vaccine for adults is called Heplisav-B.
The team found that implementing comprehensive blood safety and infection control measures was estimated to reduce the number of new infections in 2030 by 58 per cent.

Improvements in screening, prevention and treatment particularly in high-burden countries, such as India, China and Pakistan, can avert 15.1 million new hepatitis C infections and 1.5 million cirrhosis and liver cancer deaths globally by 2030.

Globally, it is estimated that 71 million individuals are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus, that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation.

The virus was also responsible for over 475,000 deaths in 2015.

Viral hepatitis
World Health Organization poster for Hepatitis Campaign. VOA

To achieve the big reductions, there is need to implement comprehensive blood safety and infection control measures, extend harm reduction services (such as opioid substitution therapy and needle and syringe programmes) and replace older treatments with direct-acting antivirals in all countries.

Moreover, adding screening to these interventions can help diagnose 90 per cent of people with hepatitis C and offer treatment by 2030, according to the study published in The Lancet journal.

The estimates equal to an 80 per cent reduction in incidence and a 60 per cent reduction in deaths as compared to 2015.

Injection and medicines
Hepatitis are the commonly transmitted hepatotropic viruses transmitted due to poor hygiene, contaminated food and drinking water, poor sanitation, Pixabay

But, it narrowly misses the elimination targets set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — to reduce mortality by 65 per cent — and would instead be attained by 2032, the researchers said.

“Even though it narrowly falls short of the WHO targets for 2030, the impact our estimates suggest would be a tremendous stride forwards,” said lead author Professor Alastair Heffernan, from UK’s Imperial College London.

The team found that implementing comprehensive blood safety and infection control measures was estimated to reduce the number of new infections in 2030 by 58 per cent.

Hepatitis C Blood Virus [HCV]. Photo Credit: michelsonmedical.org
Extending harm reduction services to 40 per cent of people who inject drugs could reduce the number of new infections by a further 7 percentage points.

Together, this would prevent 14.1 million new infections by 2030.

But, offering direct-acting antivirals to all patients at the time of diagnosis could prevent 640,000 deaths from liver cancer and cirrhosis by 2030, the researchers noted.

Also Read: Major Breakthrough Made In The Treatment Of Ebola Virus

“Achieving such reductions requires a massive screening programme and demands a rapid increase in new treatment courses in the short term — namely, 51.8 million courses of direct-acting antivirals by 2030,” Heffernan said. (IANS)