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Monday, January 16, 2012

Canadians pioneer way to spot, fight epidemics

Article via Vancouver Sun, excerpt :

" Social media trends monitored to find signs of potential outbreaks

In India, a woman is coughing as she boards a plane headed for Saudi Arabia.

A few days later, an H1N1 out-break unfolds as more than 70 people fall ill during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the largest annual mass gathering in the world.

It sounds like a scene out of the Hollywood film Contagion. According to Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious-disease physician and scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, it has happened before and it could happen again.

Major disease outbreaks are a very real risk when masses of people gather in one place, he said, such as at the upcoming London Olympics this summer.

To help better prepare, a team of Canadian researchers is working with British authorities to track and anticipate the risk for an infectious disease outbreak during the event.

The international collaboration, marking the first time experts from around the world are combining technologies for global disease surveillance, is documented in a research paper published today in the scientific journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases."

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