Satellites help predict the next outbreak of cholera

The outbreak of cholera diseases is almost always a dangerous start to the development of the worst-case scenario, with the possibility of becoming an epidemic or even a pandemic. For this reason, monitoring of potential outbreaks is one of the main public health problems. According to a new successful test in Yemen, public health technologies can rely on satellite monitoring of disease outbreaks.

In May 2017, scientists used satellite information to determine the possibility of a cholera outbreak in Yemen. Surprisingly, they were able to predict the outbreak, which occurred just a few weeks later.

Every year more than 100 thousand people die from cholera infection. A proper response to outbreaks of this disease is critical to reducing mortality from this bacterial disease transmitted through water. Using satellites to predict flares in such an accurate way can become a more common and vital tool that can ultimately save thousands of lives.

To make their predictions, the team used several satellites to monitor water temperature, precipitation and land use conditions. By combining these raw data with an AI algorithm, a specially designed team, and trained by data from South Asia and parts of Africa, they were able to predict which specific areas are most at risk of an outbreak within the next month.

This can be a tool for saving lives in the future. Similar studies of satellite data have been successful in forecasting outbreaks of meningitis in Africa and Sakhalin, as well as predicting outbreaks of malaria in the Amazon rainforest.

Accurate predictions can be especially useful when it comes to cholera. Although states tend to prepare for occasional outbreaks of this disease, local communities are often caught unawares, as earlier these outbreaks were more difficult to predict. Often, local communities simply do not have vaccines or solutions to cope with dehydration caused by cholera, which often kills victims before they receive medical care.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of early prediction – this gives time for preparation as an outbreak of diseases, so the possibility of taking measures to prevent it. American scientist Michael Wimberly, an ecologist from the University of South Dakota, who remotely controls the West Nile virus, believes that the main task of counteracting epidemics is to predict the diseases at their place of origin with appropriate preventative measures.