Software to map spread of diseases developed

Singapore, September 30 :

Researchers in Singapore have devised a computer programme to help control the spread of deadly diseases such as bird flu, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) said today.

The software can project how an infectious disease will spread in a certain area.

When this information is combined with geographical data, health authorities can pinpoint which “high population concentration” areas should be targeted first to control the disease’s spread, Professor KC Lun of the School of Biological Sciences told The Straits Times. “You’re racing against the disease,” Lun was quoted as saying.

“This digital ring fence solution will help contain the disease faster than it can spread.” The World Health Organisation has expressed interest in the software development.

Health officials currently make little more than arbitrary decisions on the size of an area in which birds must be culled to curb an avian flu outbreak, Lun said, or how far away people must be kept to minimise transmission. The computer model is a more precise method, “which will help us stay one step ahead of the disease,” Lun, the lead researcher, told the newspaper.

“Our digital ring-fence strategy could potentially have many useful applications in the field of epidemic surveillance and containment of infectious diseases.” The project was chosen because of the increasing global threat from the spectre of bio-terrorism and emerging infectious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), he said.