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article imageUnlocking the spread of COVID-19 cases

By Tim Sandle     Jun 17, 2020 in Health
Researchers in Scotland have teamed up with data scientists at Blue Hat Associates to look into the spread of the novel coronavirus within a given community. How COVID-19 spreads within the community is based on medical reports, which limits its use.
The website takes a different approach to coronavirus contact tracing, as compared with many of the smartphone apps being rolled out by health authorities. The application forms part of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Rapid Research program, for which one hundred and thirty-nine proposals were received from across Scotland’s universities and research institutes. The new project seeks to extract important information from households’ reports of SARS-CoV-2 cases and connect these with medical records in order to obtain an improved assessment of the numbers of people with the disease.
The consortium, led by St Andrews University, has launched a website called c19track.org. This is designed to help probe the actual numbers of people infected with the disease. This is because official figures are flawed due to some people being infected but known to authorities because they do not go to hospital or where someone only has mild symptoms, and hence do not require medical care. To add to this there is a section of the community who are asymptomatic (how much coronavirus transmission comes from people with no symptoms is still a "big unknown").
The new website is seeking to collect data pertaining to the health of each person within a household. The next stage is to link these data together to form an overview of a community that spans a given geographic location. Seeking a local level profile provides data that is arguably more meaningful than the international and national figures that are banded about by politicians. Local data ensures better community planning. In other words, the aim is to achieve a perspective of the community effect of the disease.
For the data gathering process, the researchers are requesting that households record contact information. The researchers can then take the information, process it, and provide detailed cross section of the population.
As well as enabling local responses, the information will provide useful metrics for planning vaccination strategies, as well as assessing the success of immunization campaigns.
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