Tech UPTechnologyAn artificial intelligence predicted the coronavirus epidemic

An artificial intelligence predicted the coronavirus epidemic

In an increasingly globalized world with a greater movement of people and animals, it is very easy for a localized disease to spread throughout the planet. But, at the same time, new technologies and in particular big data can be a very effective tool to detect and stop them in time. Or, at least, to help put solutions before it’s too late.

In the case of the Covid-19 epidemic, a Canadian company that is dedicated to monitoring the spread of infectious diseases using artificial intelligence (AI) , had already warned of the potential of this new type of pneumonia a few days before the World Organization de la Salud issued the official statement, according to The Wired medium at the end of January.

“We have combined our medical and public health experience with advanced data analysis to create solutions that track, contextualize and anticipate the risks of infectious diseases.”, Explains on its website the company Bluedot, which in 2015 was already able to anticipate the spread of the Zika virus from Brazil.

In the case of the new coronavirus, the algorithm developed by Bluedot is based on tracking thousands of news items published in different media about cases of flu, new diseases with symptoms that cannot be associated with any known condition or health alerts. We are talking about a complex development that also implies having a good translation system, since information published in different languages is handled.

In addition, and as reported by The Wired , the company also has a trick that considerably improves the predictions of the algorithm in question: access to global data on the sale of airline tickets, a very useful information that helped the AI to forecast in a good way. correct that the virus would jump from Wuhan to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo in the days after its initial appearance.

They are not all machines

The company currently employs about 40 medical staff and programmers who design its surveillance analytics program, which uses natural language processing and machine learning techniques to examine information in 65 languages, along with the aforementioned airline data and reports of outbreaks of new animal diseases.

Once the automatic data processing has been completed, a team of epidemiologists checks all the information to make sure that it makes sense from a scientific point of view. The company then sends the report to its clients, which are usually government health agencies or large companies.

Artificial intelligence as an ally of global health

Viruses are continually mutating, and millions of displacements occur every day in the world, so it is inevitable that, from time to time, new diseases emerge, some more deadly and more virulent than others, that put health systems in check. global health.

Although this type of system has flaws and should not be blindly trusted, the case of the coronavirus 2019-nCoV and the prediction of the tool developed by this company shows us that technology and the processing of large amounts of data can be great allies. when it comes to anticipating major global epidemics and stopping them in time.

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