Washington: A new technique has been developed by a team of researchers to identify the cause of infectious disease outbreaks based on online reports about the symptoms, the season, and the ratio of cases to fatalities.
The researchers had used data from the Internet outbreak reporting system ProMED-mail to identify more than 100 outbreaks of encephalitis in South Asia, which has recently been identified as an emerging infectious disease `hotspot`.
The new method can also be used to determine the cause for the symptoms of encephalitis , and whether Nipah, a critical new infection, could be reliably differentiated from the other diseases.
According to Dr. Stephen S. Morse, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University`s Mailman School of Public Health and an originator of ProMED-mail, the new method is specially beneficial in poverty-stricken countries because of their limited surveillance capacity and lack of laboratories to diagnose unusual outbreaks, which mostly occur in such countries.
Morse added that this would lead to more rapid responses and reduce the risk of a pandemic.