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Canadian researchers study mass gatherings and risks of infectious disease threats

Toronto, February 24, 2010

Researchers at St. Michael’s in Toronto and Children’s Hospital Boston teamed up to monitor and assess potential infectious disease threats to Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games by integrating two independently developed intelligence systems that focus on global infectious diseases; bio.DIASPORA and HealthMap.

The communicating systems, developed by two Canadians – Dr. Kamran Khan at St. Michael’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health and Dr. John Brownstein of the Informatics Program at Children’s Hospital Boston – are now producing the first, real-time analyses on potential threats to mass gatherings. The collaboration, and corresponding analysis of threats to the Olympic Games, is described in an article recently published online by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"Mass gatherings can potentially amplify and disperse infectious disease threats globally because they can draw millions of people from around the world into a single space," says Dr. Kamran Khan, an infectious disease physician and scientist at St. Michael's Hospital. "By enabling our two systems to communicate in real-time, we are exploring new ways to generate actionable intelligence to organizers of mass gatherings."

Dr. Khan is the developer of bio.DIASPORA, which enables the study of global air traffic patterns and applies this knowledge to help the world’s cities and countries better prepare for and respond to emerging infectious diseases threats. Dr. Brownstein is a co-founder of HealthMap, an online global disease-tracking and mapping tool which leverages information sources on the Internet to detect infectious disease outbreaks around the world.