A supercomputer could help stop Ebola outbreaks, like the one that has killed over 460 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Doctors at Mercy Hospital in Sierra Leone have stated: ”Emerging technologies can help early-warning systems, outbreak response and communication between healthcare providers, wildlife and veterinary professionals.” Doctors want to start using different technologies available to limit outbreaks. Many people try to use traditional cures and so cases are going undetected.
In places like Guinea, doctors can be scarce (1 per 10 000 patients) and so viruses such as Ebola spread drastically. It has a fatality of up to 90% with no cure or vaccination.
But now IBM has announced their new $110 million supercomputer, Watson, to help the problems in Africa. Watson has helped treat cancer patients in the United States and even managed to beat two champions on the Television quiz show, Jeopardy. It can ‘learn’once its analysed data, which is different from other supercomputers that mostly number crunch.
The director of The West African branch of IBM, Taiwo Otiti, states, “The beauty about Watson is it’s a community computer. You could feed it information about Ebola cases, for instance, and then you could ask it questions, and it will give you a prognosis and suggest the best treatment for a particular patient based on that data.
Poorer areas of Africa could leap forward in development with access to this supercomputer. Mobile phones took off across the continent and brought access to phones in places where landline infrastructure was practically non-existent.
This isn’t the only technology being adopted. Researchers in Burkina Faso are able to track dust storms in the Sahara using satellite data which has a connection with airborne diseases like meningitis.
Even text messages are useful in health education, how? “It’s a very useful medium to dispel myths and help change attitudes, and we’ve been using it a lot in urban areas,”states Fiona Mclysaght, director of NGO Concern.
[image via theepochtimes]