Canadian researchers study mass gatherings and risks of infectious disease threats

February 24, 2010

As the world watches the Vancouver Olympics, researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and Children's Hospital Boston have teamed up to monitor and assess potential infectious disease threats to Vancouver during the Winter Games by integrating two independently developed intelligence systems that focus on global infectious diseases; bio.DIASPORA and HealthMap.

The communicating systems, developed by two Canadians - Dr. Kamran Khan at St. Michael's and Dr. John Brownstein of the Informatics Program at Children's Hospital Boston - are now producing the first, real-time analyses on potential threats to mass gatherings. The collaboration, and corresponding analysis of threats to the Olympic Games, is described in an article published online by the today.

"Mass gatherings can potentially amplify and disperse infectious disease threats globally because they can draw millions of people from around the world into a single space," says Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease physician and scientist at St. Michael's Hospital. "By enabling our two systems to communicate in real-time, we are exploring new ways to generate actionable intelligence to organizers of mass gatherings."

Dr. Khan is the developer of bio.DIASPORA, which enables the study of global air traffic patterns and applies this knowledge to help the world's cities and countries better prepare for and respond to threats. Dr. Brownstein is a co-founder of HealthMap, an online global disease-tracking and mapping tool which leverages information sources on the Internet to detect infectious disease outbreaks around the world.

For the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Dr. Khan analyzed recent worldwide air traffic patterns during the month of February, to predict where passengers travelling into Vancouver would be originating from. His team found that nearly two-thirds of all international passengers traveling to Vancouver came from just 25 cities. Dr. Brownstein's team then concentrated its infectious disease surveillance efforts on those cities, which it continues to do on an hourly basis during the course of the Winter Games (a real-time view of this analysis is available online at http://www.healthmap.org/olympics).

"Internet-based, geographically-directed infectious disease surveillance may greatly compliment traditional preparations for infectious disease threats at mass gatherings by identifying infectious disease at their source and potentially preventing importation/exportation of infection among attendees," explains Dr. Brownstein at Children's Hospital. "We look forward to continued research and dialogue in this area and seeing how the information we glean from monitoring these Games may be useful in terms of preparing for future mass gatherings like the upcoming G20 Summit in Ontario, Canada and this year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Novel therapies for multidrug-resistant bacteria

October 23, 2017
During this innovative study published in PLOS One, researchers found that novel classes of compounds, such as metal-complexes, can be used as alternatives to or to supplement traditional antibiotics, which have become ineffective ...

Key discoveries offer significant hope of reversing antibiotic resistance

October 23, 2017
Resistance to antibiotics is becoming increasingly prevalent and threatens to undermine healthcare systems across the globe. Antibiotics including penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems are known as β-lactams and are ...

Exploring how herpes simplex virus changes when passed between family members

October 22, 2017
A new study explores how herpes simplex virus might change when passed from one individual to another, information that may prove useful in future development of therapeutics and vaccines. This rare glimpse into a transmission ...

Pneumonia vaccine under development provides 'most comprehensive coverage' to date, alleviates antimicrobial concerns

October 20, 2017
In 2004, pneumonia killed more than 2 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. By 2015, the number was less than 1 million.

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

Migraines may be the brain's way of dealing with oxidative stress

October 19, 2017
A new perspective article highlights a compelling theory about migraine attacks: that they are an integrated mechanism by which the brain protects and repairs itself. Recent insightful findings and potential ways to use them ...

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.