Link between weather, disease drives new prediction outbreak models

Just as news channels use computer models to forecast weather, data on weather conditions might also be helpful in predicting disease outbreaks.

The potential public health benefit for the type of predictive computer modeling that helps simulate how viruses spread in relation to weather is huge, including being used in disease-prevention efforts and vaccination campaigns.

Using a computer model, researchers say they were able to predict the peak of the flu season in New York City more than 7 weeks before it hit.

According to researchers, temperature has an effect on microbes. For example, scientists have known that temperature and rainfall are factors in the breeding patterns of mosquitoes that carry malaria, West Nile virus and other diseases. But researchers note that outbreaks are also influenced by human factors and other behaviors.

New technological advances--such as satellite technology and more sophisticated computer data processing--have helped advance these models, but weather-based outbreak prediction likely still has a long way to go.

- read the AP story