Research suggests that an AI beat humans to the punch in warning the world about the coronavirus. But it didn't get all the credit, because it needed humans to recognize the danger. Earlier reports had suggested that a Canadian epidemiologist had raised the first warnings of the outbreak, using an algorithm called BlueDot that scanned news reports and airline ticketing to predict the spread of the disease. Associated Press reporters Christina Larson and Matt O'Brien were dubious about the claim, and decided to draw up a timeline of when global alert systems noticed the signals. They determined that the first warning outside China of the virus came from the automated HealthMap system at Boston Children's Hospital, which scans online news and social media reports for signals of spreading disease.
Did an artificial-intelligence system beat human doctors in warning the world of a severe coronavirus outbreak in China? But what the humans lacked in sheer speed, they more than made up in finesse. Early warnings of disease outbreaks can help people and governments save lives. In the final days of 2019, an AI system in Boston sent out the first global alert about a new viral outbreak in China. But it took human intelligence to recognize the significance of the outbreak and then awaken response from the public health community.
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Disease outbreaks like the coronavirus often unfold too quickly for scientists to find a cure. But in the future, artificial intelligence could help researchers do a better job. While it's probably too late for the fledgling technology to play a major role in the current epidemic, there's hope for the next outbreaks. AI is good at combing through mounds of data to find connections that make it easier to determine what kinds of treatments could work or which experiments to pursue next. The question is what Big Data will come up with when it only gets meager scraps of information on a newly emerged illness like Covid-19, which first emerged late last year in China and has sickened more than 75,000 people in about two months.
BOSTON – Did an artificial-intelligence system beat human doctors in warning the world of a severe coronavirus outbreak in China? But what the humans lacked in sheer speed, they more than made up in finesse. Early warnings of disease outbreaks can help people and governments save lives. In the final days of 2019, an AI system in Boston sent out the first global alert about a new viral outbreak in China. But it took human intelligence to recognize the significance of the outbreak and then awaken response from the public health community.
The health ministry, which is at the heart of the nation's ongoing battle with the coronavirus outbreak, is struggling to keep non-Japanese updated on the rapidly escalating situation in a timely manner, hampered by a dearth of staff proficient in foreign languages. As of Tuesday afternoon, the English version of the ministry's website made no mention of the COVID-19 infection anywhere prominent on its top page, relegating any coronavirus-related links to midpage or lower, with those all directing viewers to original press releases written exclusively in Japanese. "Since our main job has been to update our Japanese website, it has inevitably led to difficulties in providing English-language information in a timely way, so one option is to use machine translation for now," ministry official Takuma Kato said. The official said a future redesign of the English website to better highlight updates pertaining to the new virus is not guaranteed, citing the need to overcome technical difficulties. "Our ministry doesn't have a dedicated team of staff specializing in English-language communication in the first place, so the situation at the moment is that our Japanese staff has been utilizing what little resources they can find to deal with any English update," Kato said.
With the growing scare of the deadly coronavirus, companies in China are pushing hard to limit its spread. In one such effort, the country's leading search engine Baidu has open-sourced an AI model to detect people not wearing face masks. As coronavirus can spread through close contact with an infected person via their coughs, sneezes, or respiratory droplets, China has made it mandatory to wear face masks in several regions. People are instructed to wear masks in public places such as restaurants, shopping malls, and public transport. It's quite hard for authorities to catch people not wearing masks in large crowds.
According to the Polish Economics Institute (PIE), the first coronavirus warnings were issued on December 31 by a Canada-based health monitoring startup. The Canadian company, BlueDot, even correctly predicted the cities outside of China coronavirus would next appear: Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei and Bangkok. PIE said: "Algorithms using artificial intelligence solutions identified the onset of the coronavirus epidemic a few days earlier than reported in the official information from international organisations such as the WHO or the CDC." BlueDot's AI predicted the spread of coronavirus by analysing airline data, international news stories and reports of coronavirus animal infections.
BEIJING: A man who had travelled to Wuhan -- the central city at the heart of China's coronavirus crisis -- was surprised when police showed up at his door after he returned home, asking to check his temperature. The man, who had quarantined himself at home in Nanjing, eastern Jiangsu province, said he had not told anyone about his recent trip to the city. But by trawling through travel data from Wuhan, local authorities were able to identify him and dispatch officers to his home last week, according to a newspaper article posted by the Nanjing government. As Chinese authorities race to contain the spread of a new virus, which has infected more than 34,000 people and killed more than 700 in China, Beijing is turning to a familiar set of tools to find and prevent potential infections: data tracking and artificial intelligence. Several Chinese tech firms have developed apps to help people check if they have taken the same flight or train as confirmed virus patients, scraping data from lists published by state media.