Satellite Technology Can Predict Cholera Outbreaks
July 10, 2011 • 9:38AM

Several scientists and medical researchers have found that satellite imaging technology has already proven extremely useful in predicting cholera outbreaks weeks before they occur.

This is crucial, given that the world is in the grip of a global cholera pandemic which shows no sign of abating. Edward T. Ryan, director of Tropical Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital told Scientific American that "if anything," the pandemic "is revving up. We are in this for the long haul." Regular mutations of the cholera bacterium have produced a strain that is more toxic and tenacious than researchers say they have ever seen.

Yet the Nero in the White House is slashing funding for this technology which can save lives. Throw the bum out!

Rita Colwell, professor at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that measurable changes in the sea often will precede an epidemic by about six weeks. She told Scientific American that sensors on satellites "allow us to measure chlorophyll, sea surface temperature and sea surface height. These factors, it turns out, are very useful in predicting cholera epidemics."

A 2009 paper co-authored by Colwell, entitled "Using Satellite Technology to Model Prediction of Cholera Outbreaks," reported that remote imaging technologies developed by NASA "have been used to relate sea surface temperature, sea surface height, and chlorophyll A levels to cholera outbreaks." The paper noted that because the satellite data are "becoming increasingly accurate through ground truthing (real-time collection of information on location), we believe that satellite imaging provides tremendous promise for prediction of cholera, weeks and even months in advance of an epidemic."

It goes on to warn, however, that in the U.S., "we face a crisis in funding that not only affects basic and applied research in this field but also undermines our ability to deploy remote sensing technologies that provide the most promising means for monitoring our environment." Although remote sensing technology "is currently still a research tool, the example of cholera prediction through its use provides a compelling argument to maintain and adequately fund our satellite programs; unless this is done, this extraordinary effort at disease prediction will fail."