Tracking Epidemics with Advanced Computing
Epidemics due to contaminated water or food cause considerable illness and death each year. Respiratory disease epidemics, such as influenza and SARS in particular, can have an even greater impact. While public health agencies can limit this impact, effective intervention requires rapid detection and access to the information necessary for guiding disease control measures.
Most disease surveillance systems rely on manual reporting of cases and ad hoc analysis of accumulated records. Governments and public health agencies around the world recognize that they are inadequate. Although advances in medical informatics could improve surveillance methods, many systems are not taking full advantage of them.
Dr. David Buckeridge and his colleagues are developing and evaluating informatics infrastructures that will modernize public health surveillance. Their program includes developing methods to detect disease cases automatically from electronic health records, developing methods for detecting epidemics rapidly from multiple streams of data, as well as evaluating the impact of automated surveillance systems on decision-making in hospital and community disease control programs.