No. I’m not talking about mosquito repelling phone apps here. Researchers in Kenya are using cell phone data from millions of cell phone users to track the prevalence of mosquitoes in certain areas: “That data was used to track where people traveled. The researchers then superimposed maps of population density and the rate of infection of malaria. The prevalence of the number of people infected with the disease combined with the travel data was then used to establish a per-day probability that a person would be infected if they visited a specific location.” Source.
Researchers were able to see why there were rises in malaria cases where mosquitoes aren’t common. It was because people were traveling to areas where mosquitoes carrying malaria were very common. After being bitten, those people returned home, carrying malaria with them. With this data, travelers are more informed on their personal health safety when it comes to this preventable, but deadly disease.
Although this study was first used to study malaria, researchers are already looking at other ways to use it, including tracking Dengue fever which is prominent in many tropical locations. They actually believe that Dengue will be easier to track because it’s more common in urban areas where there are more cellphone towers, which means more human movement data. Malaria, on the other hand, is more prevalent in rural areas.
At Mosquito Squad, we are interested to see more from this study. It could help people protect themselves properly before traveling to places where their probability of being infected with malaria is high resulting in more people getting sick.
Malaria, as I mentioned is preventable, yet it kills a child in Africa every minute. We’re proud supporters of Malaria No More whose goal is to end all malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. They’re making great strides towards their goal by providing protective bed nets to families. One ten dollar bed net has the ability to protect a mother and two small children while they sleep at night.
To donate to Malaria No More, please visit SwatMalaria.net.