Health and Fitness

How This Study Accurately Predicted The Worldwide Spread of 2019-nCoV

Using historical data of air travel to and from mainland China.
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Healthcare in the 21st century is far more equipped to battle viruses compared to the dark days of the Black Death and the Spanish Influenza. But while medical technology has advanced exponentially, we also have something else that didn’t exist centuries ago—planes. The speed and frequency of international travel coupled with ever-evolving diseases continue to pose a threat to human health.

But by using historical data from the International Air Transportation Association, a risk analysis paper by the University of Southampton School of Geography accurately predicted the mobility patterns of 2019-nCoV.

Published two weeks ago on the Lunar New Year, considered the largest annual human migration in the world, the paper analyzed domestic travel data from 2013 to 2015 and international air travel data from 2018 to identify the patterns in population movement to find the cities and countries that travelers were more likely to travel to.

With data on the volume of travelers coming to and from mainland China in hand, the study then calculated the risk by measuring the number of airline travelers from high-risk cities arriving in a certain city against the total number of travelers leaving high-risk cities. The data gathered by the study covers a risk period of three months, from 15 days before Luna New Year’s Day to two and a half months after the celebration.

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The top 30 cities ranked by volume of airline travelers arriving from 18 high-risk cities in Mainland China

Photo by University of Southampton.

The top 30 countries ranked by volume of airline travelers arriving from 18 high-risk cities in Mainland China

Photo by University of Southampton.
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Of the top 30 countries at risk of having 2019-nCoV outside of China, a total of 23 countries currently all have confirmed cases in their territory. That’s a 77 percent accurate prediction from the study by the University of Southampton. The only countries on the list that don’t have any confirmed cases are Indonesia, New Zealand, Turkey, Egypt, Maldives, Netherlands, and Myanmar.

Geographic distribution of cities across the globe receiving airline travelers from the 18 high-risk cities in mainland China

Photo by University of Southampton.
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As of February 3, there have been 17,335 confirmed cases and 362 deaths. The first 2019-nCoV death outside of China occurred in the Philippines. But while the number of deaths is rising, so is the number of recovered and cured patients. Four hundred eighty-seven patients from China, Japan, and Vietnam have successfully fought off 2019-nCoV, and scientists are working their way toward a vaccine at an unprecedented rate. Scientists from Australia and China have already recreated the genome sequence of the virus, bringing us one step closer to a vaccine.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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