IBM Research releases data model to track spread of Ebola virus

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IBM Research investigators are sharing open-source computational models to help governments and humanitarian agencies fine-tune intervention measures for Ebola outbreaks.

During the Ebola epidemic in 2014, the CDC produced mathematical models to understand how potential interventions would impact the virus' spread, according to IBM. IBM has built on this type of research by investigating not only disease progression in the human population, but also how Ebola spreads from animals to humans.

IBM researchers used advanced analytics on large datasets to assess the impact of infected animal carriers on the spread of the virus. Although Ebola is a human disease, it is primarily carried by animals like bats or snakes. A human who has direct contact with an infected animal — by touching or eating it, for example — enables the disease to enter the human population.

"By addressing the source of infection earlier in the disease-spread we believe that it increases the probability that an entity like the World Health Organization can not only reduce an Ebola outbreak, but also help to prevent a possible pandemic," said Simone Bianco, research staff member at IBM Research-Almaden in San Jose, Calif. "It is important and should not and cannot be understated."

IBM's new computational model is available through the Eclipse Foundation's free Spatio-Temporal Epimidemiological Modeling framework.

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