23 Feb 10 Ways Tech’s Stemming the Tide of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
The first report of a case of pneumonia from an unknown virus in Wuhan was diagnosed on December 8th. But it wasn’t until December 31st that AI-company BlueDot published the first alert about COVID-19 (initially called the coronavirus). A week later, the CDC notified the public of a flu-like outbreak in China, clustered in Wuhan. And, on January 9th, the World Health Organization followed; by the end of January, designating the “2019-nCoV” a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Highly contagious, unchecked, COVID-19 typically results in 2-3 new cases per established infection — largely because the virus is transmitted to others before symptoms develop in the host. As a result, within 11 weeks (as of 2/19/20), the virus has infected 75,309 (in 29 countries or territories), killing 2,014 — all but six in China.
The amazing statistic, given COVID-19’s highly contagious nature, is that it hasn’t impacted more people far beyond the borders of Wuhan and Hubei province, where 61,682 people are known to have been infected — 82% of the global total.
So why hasn’t the virus spread much further? An aggressive (if not immediate) response by China, Inc., and an equally aggressive use of technology. Here are 10 (graphic) examples:
BlueDot is a health monitoring AI platform that was first to issue a warning, on New Year’s Eve, about the Wuhan virus’s spread, correctly predicting its likely path from Wuhan to Tokyo. The Toronto-based company considers itself “a digital health company that uses big data analytics to track and anticipate the spread of the world’s most dangerous infectious diseases.” By tracking piles of information from news reports, airline data, and animal disease outbreaks, BlueDot’s algorithm can identify a trend which is then analyzed by epidemiologists, then shared with its clients.
On January 10, thanks to significant advances in genome sequencing, the “Wuhan virus” genome was completely sequenced by Chinese scientists and made available to fellow scientists about a month after the first case was detected. Since then, nearly two dozen more have been completed, including this one, which is posted on UC Santa Cruz Genomic Institute’s “UCSC Genome Browser,” as an interactive web-based tool used by researchers around the world to study genetic data. In comparison, the SARS virus outbreak started near the end of 2002, but its complete genome wasn’t available for researchers until April of 2003.
In Wuhan, on January 23, construction began on 1,000-bed Houshenshan hospital; two days later, ground was broken for 1,600-bed Leishenshan hospital — less than two weeks after plans for the hospitals’ construction were first announced. Construction was completed on both of them by February 5. (Obviously, the Chinese contractors didn’t need to contend with California’s OSHPD!) Within 36 hours, China’s three major telecoms — China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom — cooperated to complete the construction of a 5G network around the Houshenshan Hospital, and a teleconsultation system for it and the previously existing CPLA General Hospital.
By late January, thanks to newly installed 5G technology, experts from 718 miles away in Chengdu, were able to remotely diagnose those in Wuhan with the coronavirus. This was the first use of telemedicine to remotely diagnose the virus, after transforming a West China Hospital conference room into a remote diagnosis and treatment center. Prior to the outbreak, 5G’s potential for remote medical services was largely theoretical.
By February 4, volunteers in protective suits were disinfecting railway stations, airports, even passengers themselves — and a little later, the insides of planes and trains.
Drones! On February 9 — the day that WHO declared the “Public Health Emergency” — this gentleman in home-quarantine received a face mask and thermometer delivered by drone to his home in Changping village, Jiapu town, Changxing county, Huzhou.
Two days later, after the death toll passed 1,000, China launched its coronavirus app — dubbed the “close contact detector,” to let people know whether they were at risk of catching the disease based on their proximity to someone who had it. Given that it took the cooperation of three Chinese government agencies to create it — the General Office of the State Council, the National Health Commission, and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporations, I think that’s impressive.
Meanwhile, Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and other clinics began using VivaLNK’s continuous temperature sensor to curb the spread of COVID-19. The wireless, Bluetooth-enabled sensor (which adheres to the skin like a colorful bandage), allows healthcare workers to monitor patients remotely and automatically, rather that physically checking the patient’s temperature every few hours with a mercury thermometer — thereby limiting patient-to-caregiver contact.
And in the rest of the world, “sanitary and quarantine control officials” began screening the temperature of arriving passengers using thermal imaging devices similar to this handheld unit being used at Vnukovo Airport, near Moscow, Russia.
And, just today, 2/19, Veredus Laboratories announced it has “obtained Provisional Authorisation from Singapore Health Sciences Authority for its VereCoV™ Detection Kit following Veredus’ rapid launch of this kit as a ‘Research Use Only’ test earlier this year. With this Authorisation, the handheld VereCoV™ Detection Kit can be used directly by laboratories or hospitals to test patients for clinical diagnosis of the COVID-19 virus, and get the results in just two hours.” I suspect the 621 people infected and quarantined on the Diamond Princess would have appreciated knowing if they really had the virus, and then been adequately quarantined from those who did not.
Obviously, the saga of the COVID-19 virus is not over yet. But, thanks to technology — and aggressive containment approaches, hopefully it soon will be.
by Mimi Grant, President, Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization – Round Tables and Events for CEOs of Technology and Healthcare Companies