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The rapid spread of Coronavirus had brought to the fore questions about that were asked when SARS spread. There are many similarities between how SARS spread and how Coronavirus is spreading. However, several things have changed since the last outbreak. For one, our healthcare tech has advanced significantly. We now have access to technology that was either non-existent or poorly developed by 2003, which is more widespread and affordable.
Novel Coronavirus was first identified in the Wuhan region of China in 2019. It is part of a family of coronaviruses that can cause symptoms as mild as the common cold or as lethal as severe respiratory problems – like SARS was. Even though the virus was first identified in bats, China confirmed that it is contagious not just within species, but across species as well. This, coupled with the fact that the virus spread during China’s Lunar New Year, when 3 billion trips are anticipated, led to the rapid infectivity of the virus across the world.
In that context, here are some developments in technology that can help us manage or prevent this or any future epidemic.
AI as a Solution for Epidemic Detection
China covered up the spread of the virus, vastly understating its infectivity to the world. Organizations like WHO and CDC rely on nations’ reports to determine the severity, lethality, or infectivity of any virus. To circumvent these problems, AI could be used.
A Toronto-based company, Bluedot, accurately predicted the infectivity of the virus and the pattern in which it would spread from Wuhan to Tokyo long before WHO or CDC took cognizance of the issue. Bluedot calls itself a digital health company that uses big data analytics to track and anticipate the spread of the world’s most dangerous pathogens and diseases. It accomplished the feat of accurate prediction by surfing through volumes of information about news reports, airline data, and animal diseases from several journals. Once a pattern has been established, epidemiologists analyze the information to validate the information
We can teach AI to recognize patterns and to differentiate between obvious issues to establish patterns within a remarkably short amount of time that we otherwise can’t accomplish.
Interactive Maps for Monitoring
CSSE at JHU has developed an online dashboard that could be used to identify how COVID-19 is spreading in the world. This dashboard tracks the daily reported cases, deaths, and recoveries across the world. The information that this dashboard presents is collected from CDC, WHO, NHC, China CDC, and DXY. DXY is a Chinese national website that aggregates information from NHC and local health reports to provide real-time, better regional case analysis than any national-level reporting organizations are capable of.
Information for every other country is taken from the national health ministry’s reports. This dashboard helps people in understanding how the virus is spreading. By analyzing its patterns, various other forms of tech can be integrated to predict the high-risk areas that governments should focus on.
Using Robots for Patients’ Treatment
Given the high rate of infectivity, medical workers taking care of the infected are at high risk of contracting the virus themselves. This virus has a notorious track record of infecting most species, except, as some sources cite, dogs. However, robots are completely impervious to the virus’s contagiousness.
In fact, doctors have already started experimenting with such tech. A robot has treated a man who contracted COVID-19. This helps the physicians stay on top of the patient’s condition and monitor the situation. By equipping the robot with a stethoscope, doctors have facilitated the robot with the ability to take the patient’s vitals as well.
While, currently, it won’t be possible in hospitals that are jampacked with patients, we can certainly look forward to a time where humans need not interact with quarantined patients at all. China has also been experimenting with air-dropping medicines using drones. Once we improve that technology, drones could be used to provide a lot of medical supplies while minimizing human contact in quarantined areas.
Faster Detection and Genome Sequencing
There is no further proof needed to say that healthcare tech has come a long way since SARS than to point out that n-COVID has been identified within a week of its outbreak. With the technology we have available now, it is possible to sequence the virus’s genome within hours, as compared to the days it took to sequence SARS’s genome. Thanks to technological advancements, scientists can work with tiny amounts of virus’s DNA for examining them. This helps in diagnosing a patient from his spit or blood sample easily.
VereCoV’s lab-on-chip detection kit can make it easy to test for MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and n-CoV with high levels of specificity and accuracy. With increases access to quick diagnosis, medical teams on the ground can act fast to minimize the spread of the virus. This also helps medical professionals act outside hospitals when they are crowded so that timely medical support is available to all the required people.
Whatever technologies may be developed, the management and prevention of all diseases ultimately depend on the efficacy of the medical teams, and the spirit of international collaboration. Technology can only act as a facilitator by improving countries’ ability to contain and treat outbreaks so that regular processes run smoothly. Once the technology becomes advanced enough, it can be used to improve the economy during pandemics. For now, we know how coronavirus is impacting workers but we are yet to see how technology can be applied to minimize the damage it is causing to the economy.