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Ref: NASA helps CDC track and locate spread of disease

NetworkWorld

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NASA satellites to predict and prevent infectious disease outbreaks



Submitted by Layer 8 on Wed, 11/07/2007 - 4:01pm.
NASA and its Applied Sciences Program will be using 14 satellites to watch the Earth’s environment and help predict and prevent infectious disease outbreaks around the world.

Through orbiting satellites, data is collected daily to monitor environmental changes. That information is then passed on to agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense who then apply the data to predict and track disease outbreaks and assist in making public health policy decisions. The use of remote sensing technology helps scientists predict the outbreak of some of the most common and deadly infectious diseases such as Ebola, West Nile virus and Rift Valley Fever.

The ability of infectious diseases to thrive depends on changes in the Earth’s environment such as the climate, precipitation and vegetation of an area. The satellite project was outlined today in Philadelphia during the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene's annual meeting.

NASA satellites are already charting the circumstance in which malaria can take hold. Malaria affects 300-500 million persons worldwide. The Malaria Modeling and Surveillance Project utilizing NASA satellite technology is currently in use by the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Thailand and the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit located in Indonesia. Data collected at these locations is combined and used to monitor environmental characteristics that effect malaria transmission in Southeast Asia and other tropical and subtropical regions. Malaria surveillance provides public health organizations with increased warning time to respond to outbreaks and assistance in the preparation and utilization of pesticides, which leads to a reduction in drug resistant strains of malaria and damage to the environment, NASA said.

Remote sensing technology also provides information about possible plague-carriers -- such as insects or rodents -- globally and within the U.S. The Four Corners region, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, is a highly susceptible area for plague and Hanta virus outbreaks, and by understanding the mixture of vegetation, rainfall and slope of the area, scientists can predict the food supply of disease transmitting vectors within the region and the threat they cause to humans.

Because plague is also considered a bioterrorism agent, NASA surveillance systems enable scientists to decipher if an outbreak was caused by natural circumstances or was an act of bioterrorism.

İ 2007 Network World

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