Sunday October 21, 2018

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 testing 'Explore' interface on Chrome. Pixabay
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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)

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Sudan Suffers From A Chikungunya Outbreak

Activists on social media said the number of people infected by the disease was much higher than the government's figure and that there had been deaths not documented by the government.

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chikungunya
A woman sits inside a mosquito tent in the town of Abyei, Sudan. VOA

More than 11,000 people in Sudan’s eastern state of Kassala have been infected over the past month by Chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne viral disease, but no deaths have been reported, a Sudanese official said Tuesday.

Chikungunya is spread by two mosquito species and can cause severe symptoms, which develop three to seven days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. They include high fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain and rash. In rare cases, it is fatal. There are no dedicated treatments or vaccines for Chikungunya.

“So far official statistics say that about 11,000 people were infected, and there haven’t been any documented cases of death because of the Chikungunya fever,” said Magzoub Abou Moussa, a spokesman for the Kassala state administration.

Chikungunya
Omar al Bashir, President of Sudan, wikimedia commons

Heavy rains

The outbreak began in recent weeks when heavy rains pummeled the area, which led to the flooding of a major river in Kassala.

Abou Moussa said his state had received health and technical aid from Sudan’s health ministry, but expressed concern over the spread of the virus and called for further help.

Eyewitnesses said they had seen planes on Monday sweeping over the state, spraying mosquito pesticides.

Sudanese opposition parties have accused the government of failing to deal with the situation in Kassala and called for international organizations’ help.

chikungunya
Women sit in line on the ground waiting to receive food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) in Padeah, South Sudan, March 1, 2017. VOA

“We hold the government fully responsible for the spread of the epidemic,” said a statement from the National Umma Party, the largest opposition party. “We call on civil society organizations and the World Health Organization to help the people of Kassala.”

Also Read: Sudan Stops 13 Diplomatic and 4 Consular Missions Due to Financial Crisis

Activists on social media said the number of people infected by the disease was much higher than the government’s figure and that there had been deaths not documented by the government. (VOA)