Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by a virus that affects birds and mammals. The most common symptoms of the flu are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort. In more serious cases, the flu can lead to pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly for the young and the elderly.
There’s a lot of hype and concern now about the new H1N1 swine flu and the possibility for a global pandemic. It appears the swine flu is currently no worse than the regular flu, but health officials worry that the swine flu will reemerge with the autumn flu season even stronger than today.
If there’s a problem in the world, we can always count on one or more innovative computer scientists trying to solve the problem with software. Here’s a collection of software for analyzing and treating the flu:
Swine Flu Tracker for iPhone
Swine Flu Tracker tells you all you need to know about the new H1N1 swine flu, including the symptoms and facts about the disease. The app includes CDC alerts and can plot flu cases on a map so you can avoid infected areas of town and neighbors’ houses.
The iPhone app is still awaiting approval from Apple.
Swine Diagnosis for Palm handhelds helps pinpoint pig diseases in the field. It filters swine diseases according to age and clinical signs. A window shows pig vital signs.
Tap the age group of the affected pig, then tap on a series of clinical signs that you have observed, and a list of probable diseases will appear. Tap on a disease, and a brief description will be shown. A handy glossary is included.
Pandemic Flu Survival Guide
Don’t be caught unprepared in a flu pandemic. Know how to protect yourself and others when the disease strikes with the Pandemic Flu Survival Guide for mobile platforms.
Stephenson Strategies, a leading Homeland Security consulting firm, has compiled the most vital information drawn from more than 100 pages of the latest, authoritative information from respected sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US PandemicFlu.gov website, and the UK Health Protection Agency, supplemented by material from other sources.
FluSurge is a spreadsheet-based model which provides hospital administrators and public health officials estimates of the surge in demand for hospital-based services during the next influenza pandemic. FluSurge estimates the number of hospitalizations and deaths of an influenza pandemic (whose length and virulence are determined by the user) and compares the number of persons hospitalized, the number of persons requiring ICU care, and the number of persons requiring ventilator support during a pandemic with existing hospital capacity.
FluAid is a test version of software created by programmers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is designed to assist state and local planners in preparing for the next influenza pandemic by providing estimates of potential impact specific to their locality. FluAid provides a range of estimates of flu impact in terms of deaths, hospitalizations, and outpatients visits due to pandemic influenza. The software cannot describe when or how people will become ill, nor how a pandemic may spread through a society over time.
The QuickFlu JAVA applet allows health officials to calculate the average number of secondary flu infections created by an index case. The program provides a quick visualization that quantifies the consequences of anti-viral drugs on the spread of the disease.
After starting the tool, you will see a visualization of what will happen in a fully unprotected population if an influenza infection is introduced. Starting with a randomly chosen index case, it is shown how this person is infected, becomes infectious, and how many people are infected by this person. Move the sliders to change the contagiousness of the cases in the different stages and short-term effects of anti-viral drugs.
InfluSim allows health officials to predict the course of an influenza epidemic in a fully susceptible population (pandemic influenza). The following interventions are considered: treatment of cases, partial isolation of cases, and change of contact behavior in the population through behavioral changes such as cancelling events or closing schools. The program calculates for each day of the outbreak the number of infected individuals, the influenza-related number of work days lost, the number of outpatient visits, hospitalizations and drug doses prescribed, as well as the attached costs. The simulation is based on a deterministic model which is described by an interacting set of more than 1000 differential equations.
CompLearn Open Source
CompLearn is a free open-source software application that uses mathematical compression techniques to spot obscure patterns in a wide variety of data sources, from languages and music to biology. One of the authors of CompLearn, Rudi Cilibrasi, has applied this tool to a data set of 30 different H5N1 avian flu strains and was able to build a tree graph of the relationships between the different versions of the disease. His goal was to track which strains were going where, and when new strains pop up, match them to the nearest previously known strain in the hope that this can shed light on the epidemiology of the new virus.
Swine Flu Computer Virus
It’s ironic that the real swine flu virus can be a cover for a virtual computer virus. Phishers and spammers are exploiting fears about the swine flu outbreak to sell pharmaceutical products or steal sensitive information. The email scams have a subject line related to the swine flu and typically contain either a link to a phishing Web site or an attachment that contains malicious code.
One scam features a malicious Adobe PDF document titled “Swine influenza frequently asked questions.pdf”. The malicious PDF file is actually the “Bloodhound.Exploit.6” virus which installs virus code on the victim’s computer. Another scam involves a spam email with the subject line “Suspected Mexican flu toll hits 81.” Recipients are directed to a malicious website. (Story at CNET)
Veratect Analysis Software
Veratect is on the cutting edge when it comes to searching the Web for signs of pandemics. The company had a hunch two weeks ago — a week before the CDC and WHO — that something was up with the swine flu outbreak in Mexico. Veratect combines computer algorithms with human analysts to monitor online and offline sources for hints of disease outbreaks and civil unrest worldwide. Its software tracks and ranks events for severity and posts them on its website for paying clients who require early warnings.
The swine flu is a case in point. Veratect had posted a report to its clients on April 6 when there were an unusual number of respiratory illnesses in Veracruz, Mexico, the epicenter of the recent outbreak. Veratect also sent an email to the Centers of Disease Control on April 16 pointing to an outbreak of atypical pneumonia in Oaxaca state when officials issued an alert.
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Article published on May 6, 2009
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