GIS can help monitor pandemic spread

Every stream of knowledge is trying to ease the pandemic situation as it has impacted all aspects of life. To map the disease a stream like geography has come handy for the scientists to collect, analyse, and display key data, which is very helpful in drawing policies to tackle the situation.

Ambreen Matloob, a PhD scholar at the Department of Geography, Kyuugpook National University, South Korea, is convinced that disease tracking is now a map-centric exercise. The technology called ‘geographic information system’ (GIS) is a useful tool to collect, analyse, and display key data.

Ambreen, who is currently in Oman due to COVID-19 situation, spoke about the technology and said the data collected through it was mostly accurate.

Talking to the Observer, she said, “Over the past 20 years, leading health organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Center for

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have consistently relied on mapping and spatial analysis to manage the outbreak of diseases. The GIS links data and geography digitally, to create maps. This technology often provides a useful way to reveal spatial and temporal links among data and can help monitor the global spread of a pandemic.”

Going into the background of the system she said: “In the course of Severe Acute Respiratory (SARS) outbreak in China in 2002 and 2003, the GIS experts helped the health agencies to track the disease. Also, in the time of the Ebola crisis (2013 – 2016), health and government agencies used GIS to understand the virus, determine its causes and origin, and traced how it travels.”

The GIS, according to her, can be used to analyse data about COVID-19 origin and demographics to predict likely the locations of Coronavirus and thus reveal populations vulnerable to infection. The interactive map locates and tallies confirmed infections, fatalities and recoveries. The GIS graph details the virus’s progress over time. Viewers can see the day and time of the most recent data update and sources.

Commenting on the technology’s vital role in such situations, she said, “As we are surviving in the world of bacteria and viruses, we can use the available information to help reduce vulnerability, address equity and work towards living better and longer.”

Nowadays, public health mapping and spatial analysis are accessible with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Medical GIS helps people to visually understand the bigger picture of public health around the world and see how health issues affect the population.

Further commenting on the GIS’s limitations and advantages, Ambreen said, “Though data science cannot stop this pandemic, it provides information to the public. GIS plays a significant role in understanding the situation of the current pandemic. It is also helpful in contact tracing, which involves understanding where people live and how they move through places. It predicts in the analysis of individual acquiring the virus and their possible contacts. South Korea is a good example. It tracks the Coronavirus spread using a detailed ‘contact tracing’ map and this helped in the disease control.”

The applied geography, according to her, contributes to getting rid of this contagious disease, as a single discipline can’t handle a pandemic like this.