Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Neutralizing biothreats through disease forecasting

Preventing disease outbreaks in the United States requires improving public health all around the world.
September 11, 2017
General locations of Zika and Dengue outbreaks around the world.

General locations of Zika and Dengue outbreaks around the world. Epidemics have become a threat to global security. To address these biothreats, recent research at Los Alamos is incorporating satellite imagery with epidemiological data, weather data, and social-media and internet-search data streams in computer models that could help public health officials predict outbreaks.

Neutralizing biothreats through disease forecasting

by Nick Generous

Runaway epidemics are scary. The problem is, diseases don’t respect borders and can’t be added to the no fly list. Global interconnectedness and the ease of travel hinder prevention efforts and make epidemics an ongoing national security threat. We often don’t see them coming.

And yet, forecasting disease is a tricky business. Any forecast, whether it’s for the weather, crops, or the economy, relies on lots of data. Health records are an obvious source, but their built-in lag time in reporting limits their usefulness for disease forecasting. So a multidisciplinary team with expertise in epidemiology, ecology, mathematics, data science, computer programming, and remote sensing at Los Alamos National Laboratory have turned to data from some surprising, and surprisingly familiar, sources. Look no farther than what’s under your thumb, plus extensive satellite imagery.

This story first appeared in Santa Fe New Mexican.


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