Artificial Intelligence has predicted the Covid-19 epidemic since 2019

From the last day of 2019, a health monitoring company in Canada has sent warning about dangerous epidemics to its customers.

On January 9, the World Health Organization (WHO) received information about an influenza-like disease in China that caused many cases of pneumonia. CDC US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received information 3 days earlier. However, both are slower than a Canadian health monitoring platform, when the company sent a warning to customers from December 31.

BlueDot, the platform uses AI algorithms to scan a series of articles and networks warning of natural disasters and epidemics as well as official information from foreign governments to alert their customers to avoid Hot spots like Wuhan.

Picture 1 of Artificial Intelligence has predicted the Covid-19 epidemic since 2019
Machines with artificial intelligence algorithms can analyze and warn early on diseases from global data.(Photo: Unsplash).

Speed ​​is the most important

Disease prevention agencies such as WHO or CDC often have to wait for official medical reports to confirm the epidemic and provide countermeasures. Meanwhile, the reaction rate is critical for fast-moving infections like Covid-19, and the Chinese government did not provide timely information when the outbreak began.

"We know that governments may not be able to provide timely information. We can quickly update information about disease risks, from sources such as forum chat and blogs to find out. signs of unusual events , " said Kamran Khan, founder and CEO of BlueDot.

Picture 2 of Artificial Intelligence has predicted the Covid-19 epidemic since 2019
One of the key data sets for BlueDot is flight data, which helps the system predict which cities will be affected when the people of Wuhan move.(Photo: BlueDot).

Khan says their algorithms don't use social media posts because they're so messy. One of the best data sources is airline tickets from global airlines. This data source can show the movement trend of infected people. According to Wired, BlueDot's artificial intelligence accurately predicted the rush of the Wuhan people to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo during the outbreak.

"I felt like I had this problem. In 2003, I witnessed the SARS virus that caused the city to be in chaos and the hospital overloaded. At that time it was really physically and mentally exhausting, and I thought I couldn't let it. This happened again, "Khan, an infectious disease specialist who worked in a hospital in Toronto, told of the 2003 SARS epidemic.

"My lesson from the SARS epidemic is that I cannot let myself be surprised, it is necessary to predict the disease," he added.

Bluedot was born in 2014, so far there are 40 employees including programmers and doctors. The tool is capable of processing natural language in 65 languages, allowing aggregation of information from newsletters, airlines and animal disease reports.

"We have to use natural language processing systems and machine learning to help computers recognize between the risk of anthrax outbreaks and an Anthrax band reunion , " Khan explained.

Combining AI and humans

After the computer filters the results it is the human part. Infectious disease specialists will review the conclusions from the computer to see if it is suitable for scientific knowledge. The report will then be sent to government disease prevention agencies, private hospitals and airlines, which may have to deal with the epidemic.

Picture 3 of Artificial Intelligence has predicted the Covid-19 epidemic since 2019
Kamran Khan, CEO of BlueDot, was an anti-SARS doctor in 2003 in Canada.(Photo: Getty).

Khan said he wanted BlueDot to be able to produce reports faster and more accurately than Google Flu Trends. Google's flu prediction tool has been shut down since 2013, after failing to predict the dangers of pandemic flu that year. According to the medical journal The Lancet, BlueDot accurately predicted the outbreak of Zika disease in southern Florida. The software also predicts Ebola will reach beyond West Africa.

Khan acknowledged the similarities between SARS and Covid-19, which made him a little annoyed."Are we going through the same period as 17 years ago," Khan told CNBC.

After Covid-19, BlueDot will continue to predict new diseases. Currently the Lassa virus outbreak is returning to Africa. Although the initial condition is not so serious that a pandemic, such diseases also need to receive due attention.

"When people are distracted, we have the machines to help us monitor and capture everything that's happening," said CEO of BlueDot.

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