Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Software predicted virus risk in California epidemic

A computer model of the spread of West Nile virus was able to predict areas where human cases would be concentrated, especially around Sacramento in 2005. The success of the model, say researchers, depended on its focus on biological factors and on a high volume of reports from members of the public.

A computerized epidemiological model of the spread of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in 17 counties of California in 2005 successfully predicted where 81.6 percent of human cases of the disease would arise and defined high-risk areas where the risk of infection turned out to be 39 times higher than in low-risk areas, according to newly published research. The DYCAST software used in those predictions is now open-source and is being applied to other diseases.

“One of the things that really differentiates DYCAST from other approaches is that it’s based on biological parameters,” said Ryan Carney, a Brown University graduate student who is the lead author on a paper about DYCAST’s performance that appears in the current issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control. “All of the parameters in the model are based on experimental data related to the biology and ecology of the virus, mosquito vector, and bird host.”

It’s not just tracking the geography of actual cases. DYCAST “is based on biological parameters.”For example, the spatial parameters of the model include how far mosquitoes and infected birds are likely to fly. Key time parameters include how long the virus needs to incubate in mosquitoes before they become infectious and the lifespan of infected birds. Carney said that by using biology to define the geographic and temporal attributes of the model rather than county or census tract borders, which are convenient for humans but irrelevant to birds and mosquitoes, the model allowed the California Department of Public Health to provide early warnings to an area stretching from the Bay Area through Sacramento to the Nevada line, as well as regions in southern California.

Carney implemented the software when he worked for the California department in 2005. (The software was created by Constandinos Theophilides at the City University of New York.) Feeding the model in 2005 were 109,358 dead bird reports phoned in or entered by members of the public via a state hotline and website.

As more dead birds were reported in close proximity, the software would generate daily maps of areas at high risk for human infection, providing an early warning to local public health officials. The software, for example, predicted areas as high-risk more than a month before the first human cases arose, on average.

In Sacramento County, location of the largest West Nile virus epidemic in the United States that year, DYCAST helped mosquito control officials target their testing and spraying resources — actions that ultimately reduced human illness, Carney said.

After 2005, the department implemented the model throughout the state, although the number of human cases and reported dead birds, along with the model’s prediction rates, dropped sharply.

In 2007 Carney enrolled as a master’s student at Yale and adapted the DYCAST model to track dengue fever in Brazil, using a version of the software that his CUNY collaborators had converted to an open-source platform. With the specific parameters of that disease, DYCAST was able to predict its spread in the city of Riberão Preto in Brazil, Carney said, citing unpublished data.

Carney has continued his analysis and development of DYCAST and dengue at Brown, where he is a doctoral student of ecology and evolutionary biology. He said the software at its core has potential to be adapted as an early warning system for other infectious diseases or even bioterrorism attacks.

In addition to Carney, other authors on the paper include Sean Ahearn and Alan McConchie of CUNY (McConchie is now at the University of British Columbia–Vancouver), Carol Glaser, Cynthia Jean, Kerry Padgett, Erin Parker, Ervic Aquino, and Vicki Kramer of the California Department of Public Health, and Chris Barker and Bborie Park of the University of California–Davis.

The Centers for Disease Control funded the research.

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.

David Orenstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>