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Medicine Wireless Networking Science

Researchers Use Wireless To Study How Flu Spreads 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the patient-802.15 dept.
MojoKid writes "With the help of wireless sensors, Stanford researchers confirmed what most of us suspected. When it comes to infectious viruses, human beings are toast. The researchers outfitted an entire high school population with IEEE 802.15.4 sensors for one day to model what they call a 'human contact network.' The devices tracked how often people came within the infection-spreading range of other individuals during a typical height-of-flu-season January day. The devices logged more than 760,000 incidents when two people were within 10 feet of each other, roughly the maximum distance that a disease can be transmitted through a cough or sneeze, according to a Stanford report on the project. The researchers ran thousands of simulations of a flu outbreak trying to determine infection rates under various circumstances."
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Researchers Use Wireless To Study How Flu Spreads

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  • Is it just distance? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @07:36PM (#34568758)

    I was under the impression that flu was also spread by a carrier touching a surface, then someone else touching it, then touching his eyes or mouth. And if people aren't sneezing/coughing like crazy, I would expect this shared-surfaces issue to be the dominant way the flu is spread.

    If I'm right, wouldn't their approach have a serious problem getting data on these shared-surface transmissions?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Correct, however ins heavily traveled areas, the surface it likely to be touched again by someone near by, like coming in behind you through a door.

      But the test wasn't there to track all vectors, just close contact ones. There isn't anything new here, but it's a good bit of data that correlate with other models.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      This is Stanford. You can't expect them to be held up by trivial things like FACTS. The methodology sounds cool, so it passes peer review.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @09:03PM (#34569456) Journal
        As someone who works with epidemiologists, I can assure you that if you have a social network and represent individuals as actors that interact with each other, you are better than most of the models, which see cities as "pools" with simple rules to change the number of infectious, susceptible, recovered, at each iteration.
        And if your individuals' behavior incorporate a real model of movement with a sense of distance to other people, you have indeed a very interesting model. (Yes, it is that bad. If you are a developer and want to help save the world, adopt a biologist and do their developments). Right now, various techniques are used to try and build a social network that can help understand how a disease spreads in various age group. "How many people come at less than 3 meters of a given person in a normal schools day ? in an airport ? in a regular office ? in a retirement house ? in subways ?" having an indication even with a 1 to 10 estimation, it would bring interesting results. So if we know you are in range to infect 50 to 500 people in a normal day, we know that the models that say it is 10 and the models that say it is 1000 are useless.
        • by raddan (519638) *
          Don't know if you've read this paper [mit.edu], but that's exactly what these researchers are doing. The researchers outfitted an entire dorm with cellphones (which they tracked through various methods). They borrow the information-theoretic concept of "entropy" to measure a person's activity level. The most interesting (and counter-intuitive) thing from the study is that, when you live in a dorm, "staying home" when you're sick appears to put you in contact with more people than if you just carried on as usual!
    • If you were right this would be a problem, however you are probably wrong, see for example www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.html [cdc.gov]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Flu spreads wirelessly.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Young people can be conditioned to be tracked 24/7 if they think its helping with science. More study is needed to see if the "science" aspect is needed or will they just accept tracking ...
  • Some people aren't vulnerable to catching the flu. Sure, they get exposed just like anyone else, but for some reason their body doesn't become a virus factory.

    I think it'd be nice to do some research into what it takes to make a body more resistant, but that's probably not very profitable for the vaccine industry...

    • by geekoid (135745)

      the 'vaccine industry' barely breaks even.

    • by countSudoku() (1047544) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @08:32PM (#34569210) Homepage

      Speaking as someone who hasn't been sick since 2006 and I NEVER get a stupid flu shot, you may be on to something there. Part of it is to not bother with medications and having a superior immune system untouched by anti-bacterial products. That and a complete belief that I cannot get sick anymore. That's all it takes. A strong will and immune system that gets exposed to all sorts of real-world bacteria and flu bugs is all you need. Stop getting sick, you weak fucktards!

      • by LiENUS (207736)

        Speaking as someone who hasn't been sick since 2006 and I NEVER get a stupid flu shot, you may be on to something there. Part of it is to not bother with medications and having a superior immune system untouched by anti-bacterial products. That and a complete belief that I cannot get sick anymore. That's all it takes. A strong will and immune system that gets exposed to all sorts of real-world bacteria and flu bugs is all you need. Stop getting sick, you weak fucktards!

        Methinks someone doesn't understand vaccines. I got sick for the first time in years this year but I always get the flu shot if the opportunity presents itself. I don't go out of the way to get it but if I happen to be in my doctors office and he offers it I take it. It's part of exposing your immune system, ever notice how some people actually get sick when they get vaccinated? It's because their immune system is working hard fighting the vaccine.

      • by Jaktar (975138)

        Not sure why this was modded funny. I also opt to skip the flu shot. My wife and kids still get them. She insisted on getting the H1N1 shot when it became available. She then contracted H1N1 despite the vaccination and I remained healthy and unaffected. It's not a difficult concept: feed your body what you need to stay healthy and it will (usually) take care of itself.

        • She then contracted H1N1 despite the vaccination and I remained healthy and unaffected.

          Well, maybe part of her contract with H1N1 was that it wouldn't attack you if she let it attack her. :-)

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          I'm not sure I see the causal relationship between your special immunity, skipping the jab, and what you're feeding your body.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @08:10PM (#34569030)

    High school students are generally a lot more sociable than the general population. Outfit a large office building with these same sensors, and I bet you get different results.

  • "The researchers outfitted an entire high school population.... The devices logged more than 760,000 incidents when two people were within 10 feet of each other...."

    So we have successfully determined that a place has a lot of people within 10 feet of each other when:

    1) It's designed specifically so 20-40 people sit in small rooms where their "personal space" is made up entirely of a chair and a 2 foot by 3 foot desk.

    2) This time is broken up by people, all at the same time, getting up and moving around

    • by geekoid (135745)

      no, they determined how many times the come in contact with each other.

      You people that are so busy trying to show way something is wrong or 'useless' might want to take a moment to think. DO you know you look like a dick?

      • no, they determined how many times the come in contact with each other.

        Yeah, and it's a big number. What does having the precise number for one school on one day benefit us?

        • Not much. Did you think the entire result of the study was just that number, and not simply one simple value to throw into the summary?
          • Not much. Did you think the entire result of the study was just that number, and not simply one simple value to throw into the summary?

            The summary told me nothing.

            The article told me that if you vaccinate a small number it doesn't matter who you vaccinate, popular or unpopular. More informative I'll admit but not really surprising since everyone is forced to walk past everyone else several times a day. Oh, and that they assume sick people remove themselves from the population, an assumption I'd like explained to me since there's a lot of things that can keep sick kids at school.

            The actual Stanford article also told me that tracking eve

            • I'm three links deep and I've yet to find anything really notable. But fine, I'm an idiot in need of explanation. Tell me what I missed.

              Yes, these days it's tons of bullshit until you get to the real thing. Everything above the actual study is going to be full of infantile jokes and idiotic observations, as you've noted (personally it makes me sick to read any modern news articles, or much of anything, due to this). Here's the path I followed to get to the actual study:

              Slashdot summary [slashdot.org] -> Hot Hardwar [hothardware.com]

              • In the study, they use the detailed interaction data to try various infection parameters, to see how it spreads. There are many interesting graphs, showing how it spreads in the various scenarios, and where there are sudden changes in how it spreads. They look at different vaccination strategies to see which are most effective.

                Well, thank you. FINALLY something worth reading!

  • Cylons are Toasters. Human beings are meatspace. The viruses between the two... well, Dr. Baltar?

  • http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/12/08/1009094108.abstract?sid=8b3f6e2c-94b3-4175-903a-5d75382af4fd [pnas.org]

    Abstract:

    The most frequent infectious diseases in humans—and those with the highest potential for rapid pandemic spread—are usually transmitted via droplets during close proximity interactions (CPIs). Despite the importance of this transmission route, very little is known about the dynamic patterns of CPIs. Using wireless sensor network technology, we obtained high-resolution data of CP

  • When a student says "School makes me sick!", apparently that is an observant student, and should be allowed to study at home.
  • then why would anyone take extra precautions?

    This only models a viral outbreak which is both unannounced, and virtually symptomless.

    • by Abstrackt (609015)
      As far as the flu is concerned, it's possible to infect others before you display symptoms yourself so the "virtually symptomless" requirement can be satisfied.
  • Doesn't getting all the students together to distribute the monitors confound the results as the students are
    within 10 feet of each other ?

    • by gknoy (899301)

      They could simply start the window of monitoring at a different time. Such as, give the tokens out on Tuesday, and do the test on Wednesday. At 3pm, stop testing, and let everyone dump them back in a bag for recovery.

  • Methinks this study protests too much. In schools, most classrooms are arranged in such a way that desks face one direction, forward. These sensors are logging data that is not truly in the range of spreading the virus. Last time I checked a kid never sneezed out of his ear to infect the kid sitting 5 feet to the left of him or out of the back of his skull to get the people behind him. The numbers presented are blown way out of proportion. The study does however pose a good question. Should the student

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