Disease Outbreaks Predicted by Monitoring Cities from Space

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Credit: Science/AAAS

Disease Outbreaks Predicted by Monitoring Cities from Space

The bright lights ofِ a big city, asِ seen fromِ space, mayِ predict outbreaks ofِ some diseases, suchِ asِ measles, andِ help officials toِ prevent epidemics.
By analyzing changesِ in theِ brightness ofِ cities overِ time, researchers inِ a newِ study areِ estimating changesِ in population density — anِ important factor inِ disease spread.
Niger isِ anِ example ofِ a country whereِ manyِ people live inِ rural areas duringِ the farming season andِ move toِ theِ urban areas whenِ itِ getsِ dry.

Studying outbreaks

After a previous study analyzing theِ measles outbreaks inِ Niger, weِ noticed a veryِ strong seasonality toِ theِ epidemic pattern, Bharti said.
We didn’tِ know whyِ weِ were seeingِ those patterns.
It] seemedِ likeِ a reallyِ important thingِ to understand ifِ we wereِ goingِ to stop theseِ outbreaks.

Seasonal variation

Researchers sawِ that theِ populations ofِ the neighborhoods varied seasonally: high duringِ the dry season andِ low whenِ wet.
The times whenِ theِ population peaked wereِ alsoِ times whenِ measles outbreaks wereِ atِ their worst.
The seasonal swings wereِ probablyِ due toِ howِ these people makeِ their livings: This isِ a highly agriculture-dependent economy.

Stopping outbreaks

Knowing whenِ specific cities andِ neighborhoods areِ in theِ mostِ danger ofِ outbreaks canِ help put vaccination teams onِ high alert.
If theyِ canِ get toِ growing areas soonِ enough, theyِ canِ stop anِ outbreak beforeِ it reaches critical mass, theِ researchers said.
You couldِ kind ofِ access theِ risk ofِ outbreak based onِ the brightness, Bharti said.