Predicting pandemics: It’s not easy, but researchers are trying

Your online footprint may offer valuable insight to researchers who are trying to thwart deadly disease outbreaks before they become widespread.

Scientists— frustrated with insufficient prediction models— are more frequently turning to Twitter posts and Google searches to monitor in real time how viruses like seasonal influenza and other communicable diseases may spread.

But it’s complicated. 

Even the newest prediction models remain “way too simple” to forecast transmission, said Jorge A. Alfaro-Murillo, an associate research scientist in the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at the Yale School of Public Health.

Several mathematical models have been established in the past. So far none offers a perfect solution to the problem of predicting pandemics. But in this story for Georgia Health News, Prajakta Dhapte explains, why researchers are remaining vigilant, despite the challenges.

“Sometimes poor predictions are better than no predictions at all,” notes University of Georgia ecology professor, John Drake.

Prajakta Dhapte is a graduate student studying health and medical journalism. Click here to see her full post in Georgia Health News.