Olympics a gathering spot for infectious diseases?

A new infectious diseases mapping tool can help health experts predict and analyze threats at large events like the Winter Olympics.

We take you behind the scenes this month with our timely Vancouver Games Blog, an insider perspective on sport medicine and science headlines, talking points, statistical data and emerging trends.

An article in today’s Globe and Mail explains how this Canadian developed tool works:

“Mass gatherings draw millions of people from around the world into a single space, and can potentially amplify the threat of infectious disease,” said Kamran Khan of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Dr. Khan is the developer of bio.DIASPORA, a mapping program that studies global air-traffic patterns to figure out how infectious diseases are likely to spread.

To study the Olympics, Dr. Khan teamed up with Montreal-born John Brownstein, of Harvard Medical School, who is the co-founder of HealthMap, an online disease-tracking tool. Using computer algorithms and human monitors, the program trolls the Internet listening for signs of emerging epidemics – a sort of Web-enabled disease surveillance system.

By combining the two programs, which they have done at www.healthmap.org/olympics, the researchers could see who was coming to Vancouver and what medical issues were being experienced in their country of origin.

“This program allows you to narrow down the threat,” Dr. Khan said.

Read the full article here.

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