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Coronavirus: AI and Bigdata Predicted the Outbreak

Rashmi JainFebruary 8, 2020

Coronavirus has been in new for the past few weeks. World Health Organization (WHO) has already announced it as a global epidemic. The outbreak of coronavirus has affected the new year celebration in China, changed all the flights from Wuhan, the stock market took a hit, and a hospital was built within eight days to treat the patients.

A Canada based start-up, BlueDot first notified WHO regarding the virus; WHO sent out an alert to the public regarding coronavirus on January 09, 2020. BlueDot uses AI-based algorithms to analyze various sources to identify disease outbreaks and how they may spread.

The company uses a variety of information sources, including going through 100,000 news reports in 65 languages per day using natural language procession and machine learning techniques. The information is compared with the flight records to help predict the pattern of the virus outbreak. After the system churns out the automated results, the findings are sent to epidemiologists to analyze and draw inferences from each case. A report is drafted and is being sent to BlueDot’s customers, which includes government, public health organizations, and businesses.

Based on the articles in Chinese newspaper which reported that people consuming food from the sea market are getting sick in Wuhan, BlueDot has warned the customers not to travel to or from Wuhan. Not only people from Wuhan but nearby Chinese cities are also getting affected. The virus has now been recorded overseas as well. The next step to stop this outbreak is to mobilizing the response and create a vaccine. The predictions of BlueDot using AI technology is of high importance.

The core strength of AI systems is their persistent nature, and it is of specific use when the methods are used to identify and predict the outbreak of the virus. The systems can examine a massive chunk of data and identify possible correlations in a short period. However, there are limits to the predictions using the AI system specifically in case of the possibility of a virus outbreak. In this increasingly connected world, there are chances of fake news articles and other factors that might affect the prediction power of AI. The fact that BlueDot was able to identify this outbreak was they use a specialized team of humans to validate the AI findings.

A data-driven approach is used to track the spread of coronavirus. AI algorithms can also be used to predict the effect of specific preventive measures. Researchers can now predict the spread of infectious diseases in real-time by training neural networks. Maybe in the future, we can use technologies like AI and ML to predict the virus outbreak before it happens.

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