Scientists have revealed that a risk map using environmental and health data can predict epidemics.
The environment has an impact on our health. Preventing epidemics relies on activating the right counter-measures, and scientists are now trying to find out how better use of forecasting can help.
The EU's EO2HEAVEN project developed a risk map for correlating environmental and health data in order to identify where a disease may break out next. The concept will be on show at Booth E40 in Hall nine of the CeBIT trade fair in Hannover, Germany.
Cholera has been all but eradicated in Europe, but this bacterial, primarily waterborne disease still claims thousands of lives in Africa every year. Scientists are examining the effects various environmental factors have on cholera epidemics in Uganda.
As part of this work, the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation in Karlsruhe, Germany, developed a software architecture for early warning systems that compares environmental and health data and presents the results graphically.
"This allowed us to visualise the complex relationship between these factors for the first time on risk maps, leading to a better understanding of the processes," project coordinator Kym Watson said.
The scientists use sensors to measure environmental parameters such as rainfall, exposure to solar radiation and pH value, as well as temperature and concentration of nutrients in water.
Weather and climate forecasts are also included into the analysis. At the same time, they use mobile applications to collect health data on cholera cases from hospitals and doctors.
"Decision makers are now in a position to better deploy medical resources in the affected areas, and hospitals and doctors are better prepared and can respond much more effectively," Watson said.