Flu? Malaria? Disease forecasters look to the sky

January 3, 2013 by Mike Stobbe
In this Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 photo, Jeffrey Shaman poses for a portrait in his office at Columbia University's Department of Environmental Health Sciences in New York. In the study of New York City flu cases published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors said they could forecast, by up to seven weeks, the peak of flu season. Scientists hope to try real-time predictions as early as next year, said Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University, who led the work. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Sunny with a chance of flu? That's what some health scientists are thinking, as they study the weather for clues about how to predict disease outbreaks.

A growing wave of computer models factor in rainfall, temperature or other weather conditions to forecast disease, In one recent study, scientists said they could predict more than seven weeks in advance when was going to peak in New York City.

In this Friday, May 11, 2007 photo, a mosquito is sorted according to species and gender before testing for West Nile Virus at the Dallas County mosquito lab in Dallas. Scientists have been working on mathematical models to predict outbreaks for decades and have long factored in the weather. They have known, for example, that temperature and rainfall affect the breeding of mosquitoes that carry malaria, West Nile virus and other dangerous diseases. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Health officials are excited by this kind of work and the idea that it could be used to fine-tune vaccination campaigns. But some experts note that outbreaks are influenced as much, or more, by human behavior and other factors as by the weather.

Explore further: Weather forecast could predict cholera outbreaks: study

shares

Related Stories

Weather forecast could predict cholera outbreaks: study

May 31, 2011

With recent deadly cholera outbreaks in Haiti and Cameroon providing the latest indication of a menacingly resurgent disease, scientists have discovered rain and temperature fluctuations in at-risk areas could predict epidemics ...

Recommended for you

Cellphone data can track infectious diseases

August 20, 2015

Tracking mobile phone data is often associated with privacy issues, but these vast datasets could be the key to understanding how infectious diseases are spread seasonally, according to a study published in the Proceedings ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.