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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[News article] Early warning: Internet surveillance predicts disease outbreak

Early warning: Internet surveillance predicts disease outbreak.

From the 7 January 2014 news article

The habit of Googling for an online diagnosis before visiting a GP can provide early warning of an infectious disease epidemic.

In a new study published in 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.

Dr Hu, based at QUT’s Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation, said there was often a lag time of two weeks before traditional surveillance methods could detect an emerging infectious disease.

“This is because traditional surveillance relies on the patient recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment before diagnosis, along with the time taken for health professionals to alert authorities through their health networks,” Dr Hu said.

“In contrast, digital surveillance can provide real-time detection of epidemics.”

Dr Hu said 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 Organization (WHO),” he said.

“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.”

Dr Hu said the study found social media and micoblogs including Twitter and Facebook could also be effective in detecting disease outbreaks.

“There is the potential for digital technology to revolutionize emerging infectious disease surveillance,” he said.

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January 23, 2014 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] New Strain of Bird Flu Packs a Punch Even After Becoming Drug-Resistant

English: Countries that have reported swine fl...

English: Countries that have reported swine flu Tamiflu resistance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 11 December 2013 ScienceDaily article

 

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai reported that a virulent new strain of influenza — the virus that causes the flu — appears to retain its ability to cause serious disease in humans even after it develops resistance to antiviral medications. The finding was included in a study that was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

It is not uncommon for influenza viruses to develop genetic mutations that make them less susceptible to anti-flu drugs. However, these mutations usually come at a cost to the virus, weakening its ability to replicate and to spread from one person to another.

Initial reports suggested that H7N9, an avian strain of influenza A that emerged in China last spring, could rapidly develop a mutation that made it resistant to treatment with the antiviral medication Tamiflu (oseltamivir). However, patients in whom drug resistance developed often had prolonged, severe infections and poor clinical outcomes. No vaccine is currently available to prevent H7N9, which infected at least 135 people and caused 44 deaths during the outbreak. In the absence of a vaccine, antiviral drugs are the only means of defense for patients who are infected with new strains of the flu.

“In this outbreak, we saw some differences in the behavior of H7N9 and other avian influenza strains that can infect humans, beginning with the rapid development of antiviral resistance in some people who were treated with oseltamivir and the persistence of high viral loads in those patients,” said lead investigator Nicole Bouvier, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

 

 

 

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December 13, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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