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With the coronavirus growing more deadly in China, artificial intelligence researchers are applying machine-learning techniques to social media, web, and other data for subtle signs that the disease may be spreading elsewhere.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to identify disease outbreaks as well as forecast their nature of spread. Canadian startup BlueDot used AI and machine learning to detect the coronavirus outbreak even before the Chinese authorities. Its AI algorithm analyzed multiple sources such as news reports, social media platforms and government documents to predict the outbreak, Wired reported.
Autonomous sterilization robots are helping hospitals to contain the infections in quarantined wards by easily moving into a quarantined zone to sterilize virus without human intervention. Chinese medical robot developer TMiRob deployed 10 disinfection robots across major hospitals in Wuhan to contain the spread of COVID-19, reported Vox.
The first reports of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from Wuhan, China were made Dec. 31, 2019, and it quickly spread to become a global emergency. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 in China has already exceeded the SARS outbreak in 2003. More than 31,000 people have now contracted the disease in China, and 630 people have died, according to figures released by authorities.
John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Harvard Medical School and an expert on mining social media information for health trends, is part of an international team using machine learning to comb through social media posts, news reports, data from official public health channels, and information supplied by doctors for warning signs the virus is taking hold in countries outside of China.
The program is looking for social media posts that mention specific symptoms, like respiratory problems and fever, from a geographic area where doctors have reported potential cases. Natural language processing is used to parse the text posted on social media, for example, to distinguish between someone discussing the news and someone complaining about how they feel.
A company called BlueDot used a similar approach—minus the social media sources—to spot the coronavirus in late December before Chinese authorities acknowledged the emergency.
“We are moving to surveillance efforts in the US,” Brownstein says. It is critical to determine where the virus may surface if the authorities are to allocate resources and block its spread effectively. “We’re trying to understand what’s happening in the population at large,” he says.
AI developer Infervision launched a coronavirus artificial intelligence solution in China this past month that is tailored for front-line use to help clinicians detect and monitor the disease more effectively. The outbreak has put significant pressure on imaging departments, which are now reading over a thousand cases a day. Patients and clinicians typically have to wait a few hours to get the CT results, but Infervision AI is improving the CT diagnosis speed for each case. The surging number of patients needing diagnosis and the strict laboratory requirements for the use of the rRT-PCR detection kit, to confirm the 2019-nCoV diagnosis, pose big challenges to regional and rural hospitals. Infervision’s tools are helping sites with limited medical resources to immediately screen out suspected Coronavirus-infected patients for further diagnosis and treatment.
Drones are gaining popularity as the fastest and safest means to transport supplies during disease outbreaks. Singapore’s AI startup Network has launched the first ‘urban air transportation channel’ to deliver medical supplies between Xinchang County People’s Hospital and the county’s disease control center, both located in Zhejiang, one of the most severe coronavirus hit provinces.
Near Seattle, for instance, a robot helped doctors treat an American man diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The robot, which carried a stethoscope, helped the patient communicate with medical staff while limiting their own exposure to the illness.
Meanwhile, Chinese hospitals are now shipping in robots from the Danish company UVD Robots that can disinfect patient rooms, according to a statement. UVD Robots says that its roving robotic pods work by emitting ultraviolet light throughout an area, killing viruses and bacteria, including the coronavirus. (The robots are remotely controlled by a device operated by a health worker.)
Self-driving vehicles are even delivering supplies to medical workers in Wuhan. As CNN noted, the Chinese e-commerce company JD.com has been moving packages short distances to a hospital.
Flying robots, also known as drones, are also in the mix. Shenzhen MicroMultiCopter said in a statement earlier this month that it is deploying drones to patrol public places, spray disinfectant, and conduct thermal imaging. Chinese officials have used drones to track whether people are traveling outside without wearing face masks or violating other quarantine rules. More on this surveillance trend in a second.
Infervision’s Coronavirus AI solution has been in use at the center of the epidemic outbreak at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan (Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science & Technology), along with sites in other cities such as the Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen in Shenzhen City. Infervision’s Coronavirus AI solution is accelerating pneumonia diagnosis and epidemic monitoring efforts.
The outbreak has put significant pressure on imaging departments, which are now reading over a thousand cases a day. Patients and clinicians typically have to wait a few hours to get the CT results, but Infervision AI is improving the CT diagnosis speed for each case, and each minute saved is critical to decreasing the chance of cross-contamination at the hospital. The surging number of patients needing diagnosis and the strict laboratory requirements for the use of the rRT-PCR detection kit, to confirm the 2019-nCoV diagnosis, pose big challenges to regional and rural hospitals. Infervision’s tools are helping sites with limited medical resources to immediately screen out suspected Coronavirus-infected patients for further diagnosis and treatment.
While physicians are working day and night, Infervision AI is helping manage the process efficiently; assisting with pneumonia marking, abnormal and severe case analysis, patient triage, medical resources coordination, prior case comparisons and treatment assessments.
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