October 16, 2010
Cellphones reveal emerging disease outbreaks
A change in the way you use your cell phone could be a telltale signature of illness to doctors and agencies monitoring new outbreaks. New Scientist reports.
"This technology is an early warning system," says Anmol Madan of the MIT, whose team concluded that you can spot cases of flu by looking for changes in the movement and communication patterns of infected people.
Epidemiologists know that disease outbreaks change mobility patterns, but until now have been unable to track these patterns in any detail. So Madan and colleagues gave cellphones to 70 students in an undergraduate dormitory. The phones came with software that supplied the team with anonymous data on the students' movements, phone calls and text messages.
Students who came down with a fever or full-blown flu tended to move around less and make fewer calls late at night and early in the morning. When Madan trained software to hunt for this signature in the cellphone data, a daily check correctly identified flu victims 90 per cent of the time.
Read full article. (Image: Sutton-Hibbert/Rex Features)
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