Health / Pharma

Big data becomes tool in Ebola battle

28th Oct `14, 02:13 PM in Health / Pharma

Nine days before Ebola was declared an epidemic, a group of researchers and computer scientists in Boston spotted…

BDMS
Guest Contributor
 

Nine days before Ebola was declared an epidemic, a group of researchers and computer scientists in Boston spotted the hemorrhagic fever beginning to spread in Guinea.

By scouring the Internet for clues from , local news reports and other available online data, the algorithm developed by HealthMap had an early picture of the deadly disease moving across West Africa.

“Official agencies tend to be more cautious about these announcements, so public communication tends to lag,” said Clark Freifeld, who co-founded HealthMap in 2006 at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“We see this as our role to get that information out there quickly even though it may not be validated at the same level as official announcements.”

It is impossible to know whether earlier detection may have helped contain the spread of Ebola, but many scientists say this type of “big data” approach can be useful in curbing epidemics.

Tracking, predicting epidemics

So far, this approach has been used mainly for detection; but some experts say the technology sector’s predictive analytics could be even more useful.

If that is the case, the same kind of technology that helps marketers deliver targeted ads and suggest music or films could be useful in the fight against communicable diseases like Ebola.

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