NASA’s remote sensing technology helps predict future pandemic outbreaks

November 14th, 2007 - 8:37 am ICT by admin  
The researchers say that the spread of infectious diseases depends upon changes in climate, precipitation and vegetation of an area.

With the help of 14 satellites currently in orbit and the NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, they add, it is possible to keep track of such environmental changes in various parts of the planet.

The orbiting satellites provide researchers with data on environmental changes, which is then passed on to specialised agencies-the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense-to predict and track disease outbreaks.

The agencies also formulate public health policies based on their predictions.

“The use of this technology is not only essential for the future of curbing the spread of infectious diseases,” says John Haynes, public health program manager for the NASA Earth Science Applied Sciences Program.

“NASA satellites are also a cost-effective method for operational agencies since they are already in orbit and in use by scientists to collect data about the Earth’s atmosphere,” he adds.

The researchers say that remote sensing technology not only helps monitor infectious disease outbreaks in highly affected areas, but also provides information about possible plague-carrying vectors like insects or rodents.

This technology may also enable scientists to make out whether a particular outbreak has been caused by natural circumstances or is an act of bio-terrorism.

A particular infectious disease being targeted by NASA is malaria, which affects 300-500 million persons worldwide. The Malaria Modeling and Surveillance Project utilizing NASA satellite technology is currently in use by the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Thailand and the US Naval Medical Research Unit located in Indonesia.

“NASA satellite remote sensing technology has been an important tool in the last few years to not only provide scientists with the data needed to respond to epidemic threats quickly, but to also help predict the future of infectious diseases in areas where diseases were never a main concern,” says Mr. Haynes.

“Changing environments due to global warming have the ability to change environmental habitats so drastically that diseases such as malaria may become common in areas that have never been previously at-risk,” he adds.

The research was presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Meeting in Philadelphia. (ANI)

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