IBM is lending a helping hand in the battle against a potential flu pandemic, or breakout of another infectious disease, by offering some of its computer technology and expertise to the United States’ public health community, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM is expected to announce on Monday plans to construct a huge diagram of how a flu pandemic could spread on an epidemiological modeling framework called STEM, based on health information from hospitals, geographic data from road maps, airline travel routes and flight times, the Journal reports. IBM plans to offer that framework to the public health sector in an open-source format, allowing for regular changes and updates, according to the Journal.
The deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu has caused human deaths in countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq, and scientists and health officials fear it may transform into a state that is more easily communicable by human beings, sparking a global pandemic.
IBM will also employ supercomputers to create models meant to detail how influenza viruses could spread, to help officials predict possible mutations, according to the Journal. Those models could help researchers create effective vaccines before viruses could spread, saving officials and the public at large time, effort and potential deaths. Typically, a virus needs to be examined and studied before a working vaccine can be derived.
IBM will work on the initiative with Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, Calif., a biomedical research entity, according to the the Journal.
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