Food Alert! The power of predictive models to prevent dramatic outbreaks: the current case of cyclospora in USA

At least 125 cases of cyclospora infection have been reported in 13 states, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) in Minnesota (and the Food Poisoning Bulletin) that was supported in the statement by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health officials have not determined if the cases are linked and a food source has not been identified. But as spike in cases is unusual and. 61 cases of cyclosporiasis had been reported in Texas and four had been confirmed in Maine. 60 other cases have been reported in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee.

Cyclospora is a rare parasite normally associated with tropical or subtropical climates. In the U.S., cases of infection, called cyclosporiasis, are most often associated with travel. Last year, the single-celled organism burst into national headlines when a 25-state outbreak sickened 631 people, hospitalizing 49. Produce imported from Mexico was identified as the source of most of those illnesses as confirmed by a predictive model of Convertino and Hedberg (2014) published in PLoS Currents Outbreaks as ‘’ Epidemic Intelligence Cyberinfrastructure: Real-Time Outbreak Source Detection and Prediction for Rapid Response‘’. What is interesting is that the model of Convertino and Hedberg also predicted the current outbreak before it was observed. Thus, despite the considerable amount of skepticism around the predictive power of mathematical models Convertino and Hedberg proved that models can actually be very useful in anticipating outbreaks and in supporting epidemiological practice. This has huge repercussions for decreasing unpleasant public health issues related to epidemic spread.

The smart use of big data and the connection between practice and mathematical model can build automated surveillance systems that both predict future outcomes and detect in real time the source of epidemics. As for food, economical interests of food companies are also into play; thus, mathematical models can avoid bad outcomes for the food industry related to food recall. The cyclospora example is just one neat example of how science can be used in real time for solving real world issues. However, further steps need to be taken into consideration, such as embracing science and technology education into public health education and practice, to fully embrace the use of mathematical models.

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One response to “Food Alert! The power of predictive models to prevent dramatic outbreaks: the current case of cyclospora in USA

  1. Pingback: Food Alert! The power of predictive models to prevent dramatic outbreaks: the current case of cyclospora in USA | humnatlab

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