This Startup is the First to Detect Corona Virus Spread

Wuhan Red Cross Hospital

Corona virus is now the center of attention of the world. Corona virus outbreak is said to originate from the Wuhan region, China. This outbreak was first announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 9, 2020. WHO said the outbreak was similar to the flu, based on a number of pneumonia cases that have been reported in Wuhan.

Wuhan Red Cross Hospital

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had also spread the news a few days before, precisely on January 6, 2020. The outbreak is thought to originate from live animals sold in the Huanan Market, China. However, the existence of the corona virus was detected since late December 2019.

A startup company in the health sector called BlueDot submitted information about the presence of the corona virus earlier. Summarized from Wired, Monday (1/27/2020), BlueDot uses a special algorithm with Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that can explore news reports in foreign languages, about animal and plant disease networks.

The results of the data obtained, then functioned to give a warning and appealed to the public to avoid dangerous zones such as Wuhan city related to the corona virus. BlueDot’s founder and CEO, Kamran Khan said that information about infectious disease outbreaks must be conveyed to the public quickly.

“We know that the government may not be able to be relied upon to provide information in a timely manner, so we are looking for news of possible outbreaks from forums or blogs about indications of some events that happened unnaturally,” Khan said.

Khan also said that the algorithm method used by BlueDot does not refer to data uploaded on social media. Because, these data are considered too messy. BlueDot also claims that it has access to global airline data that can help predict which countries and when dangerous viruses will spread. The result is right.

BlueDot’s prediction is proven that the virus has spread to several countries namely Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo within a few days after its initial appearance. Kamran Khan, who worked as an infectious disease specialist at a Toronto hospital during the SARS epidemic in 2003, was indeed obsessed with finding better ways to track disease.

“I feel a little deja vu now. In 2003, I witnessed the SARS virus flooding the city of Toronto and paralyzing several hospitals and there was even a lot of mental and physical fatigue at the time. Then I thought it should not be repeated,” Khan said. After testing several programs, Khan launched BlueDot in 2014 and raised 9.4 million US dollars for capital.

Now, BlueDot has 40 employees consisting of doctors and programmers whose job is to design analytic programs for disease surveillance. BlueDot uses language processing and machine learning techniques to filter news reports in 65 languages, along with airline data and animal outbreak reports.

After filtering the data is complete, then proceed with analysis by experts manually. According to Khan, epidemiologists will examine whether the conclusion of the data makes sense from a scientific point of view or not. Once deemed plausible from a scientific point of view, the BlueDot report was then sent to public health officials in various countries including the United States (US) and Canada , airlines, and hospitals.

But now BlueDot does not sell their data to the general public. BlueDot also managed to predict the location of the Zika outbreak in South Florida in a publication in the British medical journal The Lancet.

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