Two researchers from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, who have been studying enterovirus epidemics, have scored a major breakthrough, developing a model that can predict an outbreak more than two years in advance.
The researchers, who were funded by the Wellcare Trust, studied data from Japan, which was collected between 2000 and 2014, and with that information, they were able to predict subsequent outbreaks in 2015 and 2016.
The scientists were confident in their model to predict enterovirus outbreaks, which they described as very accurate.
“The model fitted the 15 years of incidence data remarkably well for 18 of the 20 serotypes examined,” the researchers were quoted saying.
One of the researchers, Margarita Pons-Salort said until their study, “we didn’t know what determined the frequency of these outbreaks or why some viruses seemed to cause large outbreaks in certain years.”
The research into enterovirus outbreaks could be instrumental in planning preventive programs and vaccination efforts, making this a fine example of the digital transformation of healthcare.
However, this could be a much more difficult task, as one enterovirus can have a different cycle in two countries. Cosmos Magazine gave the example of the enterovirus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease, which it said has a one-year cycle in China but a three-year cycle in Malaysia.
The scientists said enterovirus outbreaks were linked to birth rates, with more births likely to contribute to an outbreak. Children under the age of 10 are most at risk of being infected by enteroviruses, while pregnant women could also be affected.
There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses, with viruses peaking in summer and fall. It is estimated that 50 million children are infected by enteroviruses annually in the United States.
The symptoms of enteroviruses are usually mild, although they can also cause polio and hand, foot, and mouth disease.
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