While the coronavirus outbreak can feel like a plague from the history books, the reality is that pandemics have occurred regularly over the past 20 years, such as SARS in 2002-3, H5N1 bird flu in 2006-7, H1N1 swine flu in 2009, and the MERS virus in 2012-2015, and experts predict that there will be more to come in the future.
The irony is that far from it being a Middle-Ages plague, our modern technology could be facilitating the spread of localised epidemics into global pandemics. The first line of defence in such a situation would be containment, but with the same-day global transportation that carried the carriers of the virus, the rapid spread of COVID-19 was inevitable.
However, there is an upside to our modern ways and technology in fighting the pandemic, in particular modern health-related hardware and software, and the tools for fighting the virus have been right under our noses.
Data analytics have already been used by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other agencies to track cases of COVID-19. The use of computer models using data from Google helps project the spread of the virus.
Google has a global reach and gets its relevant data about potential outbreaks before anyone else. When a cluster of people begins searching for information about flu symptoms, that’s a real-time indicator that a particular postcode could be on the verge of an outbreak. This is the power of crowd-sourced data.
The pandemic has meant hospitals and medical professionals have closed their doors to visitors for everyone’s protection.
But when someone from the outside, for example, a specialist, is required for an unusual case, the specialist can engage remotely with the patient and other doctors in the patient’s own room by way of a monitor. The specialist – who might be thousands of miles away – can interpret bedside data.
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