Scientists at Columbia University have developed a flu forecasting system that helps people find out when the flu will pass through their region, as it can predict up to nine weeks in advance of its peak.
The system was uploaded online (Columbia Prediction of Infectious Diseases: Influenza Forecast) by scientists at the university’s Mailman School of Public Health, and they carried out the first large-scale demonstration in 108 cities across the United States.
It adapts techniques used in modern weather prediction to turn real-time, web-based estimates of influenza infection into local forecasts of the seasonal peak by locality. The system could help promote more vaccination and better awareness of personal health for the public.
It could also inform health officials’ decisions about how many vaccines and antiviral drugs to stockpile, and what measures to take during an outbreak. The system will be put back in action as soon as the flu season begins again and the public will be able to view the forecasts on the dedicated website.