Satellites — scientist's new tool for fighting cholera

In May 2017, a group of scientists accurately predicted a cholera outbreak in Yemen with the help of data collected via satellite, according to an article published in Scientific American.

Here are four things to know.

1. Cholera is a waterborne infection caused by ingestion of Vibrio cholerae bacteria. The illness is a global health concern with an estimated 1.3 million to 4 million cases occurring annually, which contribute to the deaths of 21,000 to 143,000 people every year, according to the World Health Organization. The illness has an outsized effect on third world countries with poor sanitation and urban slums.

2. Cholera can often affect coastal communities with poor water infrastructure experiencing a burst of high precipitation. Therefore, a team of researchers led by Antarpreet Jutla, PhD, a hydrologist and civil engineer at West Virginia University in Morgantown, created a cholera prediction model based on satellite data on temperatures, water storage, precipitation and land around Yemen.

3. The model predicted an outbreak would occur in June. Weeks later, a surge of cholera cases occurred in a manner consistent with the team's model. Due to the nation's ongoing civil war, the researchers were unable to warn the nation about the cholera flare-up.

4. Dr. Jutla's team is now working with international agencies on the best way to communicate future predictions. They are also developing a platform to determine the probability of cholera outbreaks globally with the goal of delivering outbreak warnings four weeks before they occur, according to Scientific American.

More articles on infection control: 
The Joint Commission now cites individual hand hygiene noncompliance as deficiency 
The art of brushing — how to properly clean medical equipment to ensure patient safety 
E. Coli, influenza, whooping cough: 7 recent and ongoing outbreaks

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