Does the cold got you feeling down? Be careful you don’t get sick. But if you end up feeling under the weather, you can take solace in Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang’s report of what Columbians are doing regarding ebola, influenza forecasts, and malaria,
With the New York cold finally settling in, Bwog recommends bundling up and stay warm, or otherwise risking a bad cold that involves gross sniffles and constant coughing that can (in my case) last for a month. At this point, I’m ready to try whatever strange home remedies there are because I’ve probably lost half my friends from all this sneezing. On the positive side, at least I didn’t get ebola, the outbreak of which a team at Mailman School of Public Health has now modeled. The research team used data from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation to document the path of infection. Their model mainly made use of information on the home district of the Ebola patient such as population and geographic distant from nearby districts. This new method provides a less labor-intensive way to trace the rate of spread than contact tracing. While it’s too late to apply this model, future models generated through the same method has the potential to greatly aid health efforts for new disease outbreaks.
Meanwhile, a resistance to malaria drugs in Southeast Asia has now developed due to a mutation in the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. In a study led by Dr. Fidock at CUMC, it was found that the mutation in gene K13 is a direct cause of drug resistance in many parasites, including malaria. The good news is that the mutation does not cause a very strong resistance, and the parasite will eventually succumb to current drug therapies, but it may allow the parasite to eventually develop even stronger degrees of resistance.
Although not as deadly as ebola and malaria, getting the flu can still be a giant pain in the ass. Thankfully, Dr. Shaman’s team has developed a system that can predict seasonal peaks of the flu. In order to correctly predict flu seasons, Dr. Shaman mimicked the framework for weather forecasts, which relied on a mathematical model, real-time observations, and a statistical method I’ve never heard of. His project placed first in the “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge” hosted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and his flu forecast (or flucast if you want to be clever) can be found on the Columbia Prevention of Infectious Diseases page.
That’s it for this week. Stay warm, kiddos, and if you’re sick, there’s no pressure to skip a few classes (unless you’re in SEAS and it’s midterm week), and remember to practice good hygiene to prevent others from getting the sniffles.