From avian flu to cholera, infectious diseases may not be able to hide for long. Some researchers have their sights trained on predicting their every move with detailed satellite data
Rather than searching for weird weather or enemy missiles, some satellites are helping researchers to track—and predict—the spread of deadly diseases.
With the pandemic spread of H1N1 swine flu and the continued advance of the H5N1 avian flu, scientists are anxious to better predict the spread of infectious diseases and are looking for new tools wherever they might be—even if that's hundreds of miles in the sky.
Satellite imaging can also help warn of cholera outbreaks, which are predicted to worsen with climate change. The satellites provide information about water surface temperatures, which are key to the spread of this waterborne disease. One study found that giving people simple preventative instructions, such as filtering water through a sari cloth, reduced cholera-related deaths by an estimated 50 percent in some areas.