It’s a terrifying doomsday scenario: A novel infectious disease is sweeping through the world’s population, and health officials have only a day or two to stop its deadly spread.
While this may sound like the plot of a movie thriller, health officials argue that an event of this kind could become a reality sometime in the near future. According to researchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago, new drug-resistant infectious diseases are appearing more frequently – and are spreading faster than ever before.
With the ability to strike anywhere in the world at any given time, these pathogens are not only a major threat to public health, but they also place a substantial burden on the global economy.
In order to best address the next outbreak, Dr. Eva Lee, a systems engineering professor at Georgia Tech Univeristy, presented a novel software program at AAAS. The program, RealOpt, sifts through massive amounts of data to better optimize decision-making during the event of an emergency scenario – especially in the case of a deadly outbreak.
According to Lee, one of the critical needs during a pandemic crisis is for health care officials to make important decisions very quickly.
“This is the first motivation: How do you mobilize limited resources during a stressful time?” Lee told FoxNews.com. “Also with people that are well and worried, we have to protect them…. So people have to make lots of decisions within a short period of time. This prompted us to design a system to guide them through that to make smart decisions.”
To develop her system, Lee and her team utilized a number of data sets, including population demographics, socioeconomic information, hospital data and scientific literature regarding a range of infectious diseases – such as the flu, smallpox, anthrax, and more. With these numbers, she programmed software that can produce detailed instructions with very little input from the user.
In the event that an infectious pathogen emerges, health officials can input into RealOpt information regarding what disease is spreading, the geographical area in need of service, and the resources at their disposal – and within seconds, the system will provide users with instructions on how to proceed.