COVID-19 or corona virus is having a tremendous impact on the everyday lives of lots of people around the world. With entire countries in lockdown and others with severe restrictions on free movement the impact the pandemic is having on the economy is worth of mention too. Experts around the globe focus on minimizing the repercussion the virus will have on the population and the economy. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the tools provided by a certain discipline.

The study of diseases

Epidemiology is the study of horizontal and vertical structure of disease infection, transmission, diffusion, magnitude, age group and sex of the diseases with reference to space and time. Geographical Information Systems have become increasingly relevant in the study of diseases for their ability to represent the spatial component. GIS offer an insight into the environmental causes and spatial trends of health-related events.

Use cases

The first time spatial information was used to study a pandemic goes back to 1854. The feat of Dr. John Snow is widely known. Dr. Snow was studying the 1854 outbreak of cholera as he began to map the cases on his neighbourhood. The map allowed him to discover that most cases appeared around a certain well. When the well was disabled the outbreak ended. That year 23000 people died due to cholera, the worst figure in the history of Great Britain. The fifth pandemic, in 1875, had less impact on the country due to improved water supplies and quarantine measures.

Another example of GIS being used in epidemiology is the case of Dengue. Countries like India have used this tool to monitor outbreaks of Dengue fever and control the disease. Mapping and detection of risk areas is a complex task that requires the assessment of multiple criteria.

The World Health Organization refers to GIS as valuable tools for assessing and managing epidemics. More recently, GIS helped officials in South Korea trace the disease and limit the spread by tracking down individuals who had been in contact with cases of corona virus. South Korea has been widely praised for his success in tackling the impact of the virus.

Final word

GIS was known to be useful for assessing environmental risks and for managing rescue operations after natural disasters. But previously we’ve shown they are of application in public health too. As the number of technologies associated with GIS grows the capabilities of GIS will grow too.

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