The Penang government has hired a US-based company that uses artificial intelligence to predict and forewarn the next outbreak of dengue down to the exact location.
It is claimed it can do this three months ahead of time with an 84% accuracy.
Silicon Valley-based AIME Inc will partner with the Penang government and the state Health Department to target future dengue spots.
The department’s health officers will then take preventive action, including fogging and getting rid of mosquito-breeding sites.
According to AIME Inc president Rainier Mallol, the “AIME” system predicts the next dengue outbreak through a special algorithm that gathers 11 different data packets, containing information such as dengue deaths, wind speeds, construction sites and other factors.
The data is then used to pinpoint the current dengue outbreak, projected future outbreaks and also outbreaks that are likely to happen in the future.
The data is then put on a Google Maps-type interface, through circles on the map.
Each circle will not go beyond 400m, as a United Nations’ study has shown that female mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus will not go beyond 400m.
The 400m radius-mark from the centre of the dengue outbreak is also a standard used by public health officials.
Standard protocols dictate that health officials must clear, clean up and fog a 400m radius-area after any major outbreak.
AIME’s information will be passed on to the Health Department for further action, Mallol said.
As for Penang, he said the system has been fed with dengue-related data since 2014 and will be in full swing by next month.
AIME’s technology shows all of this in real time, giving vector control not just the current outbreak locations but the future ones as well.
This will enable health officers to take proactive action such as fogging.
The Penang government will pay RM423,333 for AIME to provide the service for the state for a year, beginning yesterday.
The AIME system was co-developed by a team of researchers from the United States, Malaysia, China and the Dominican Republic.
Sabahan Dr S Dhesi Baha Raja was part of the team of co-founders. The system has been used successfully in Brazil and the Philippines and has so far yielded positive results.
Earlier, Mallol signed a memorandum of understanding between his company and the Penang government, represented by state secretary Farizan Darus. This was witnessed by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Lim said Penang was the first to test out the system in the country and had learnt that the federal government was “a bit hesitant” about funding the project.
He said the health ministry can learn from the Penang experience and perhaps expand it nationwide.
“We do not want more lives to be lost, so we are taking the plunge to reduce the number of dengue cases and save lives.
“Imagine, now health officials can know much earlier where the next outbreak is likely to be.
“We can then go one step forward and prevent dengue cases from spreading and reduce suffering.”
Penang has seen 2,511 dengue cases and 13 dea ths so far this year.
“We need a modern strategy to address this pressing issue. This is part of our CAT (Crush Aedes Totally) plan.”
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