For the study, researchers analyzed data from a large dengue outbreak in Pakistan in 2013 and compared it to a transmission model they developed based on climate information and mobility data gleaned from call records. Data from approximately 40 million mobile phone subscribers was processed with the call records being aggregated and anonymized before analysis.
The findings suggest that the in-country mobility patterns, revealed by the call records, could be used to accurately predict the geographical spread and timing of outbreaks in locations of recent epidemics and emerging trouble spots.
Lead author Amy Wesolowski said, "Because mobile phone data is continuously being collected, they could be used to help national control programs plan in near real time."
The study is published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.