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Viruses tracking by satellite to prevent outbreaks

By Majorie van Leijen

The possible cooperation between Dubai and France on the prevention and tracking of infectious viruses was one of the topics discussed in a meeting between the Director General of Dubai Health Authority (DHA) Issa al Maidoor and Olivier Lyon, medical advisor to the French President.

Among the methods of cooperation was the tracking of viruses through satellite. “The French Government will spare no effort to work with the Dubai government to follow and trail infectious viruses so as to prevent outbreaks and track viruses via satellites so that we can effectively deal with them," said Lyon.

In terms of tracking and following the movement of viral infections, the DHA, WHO and medical universities in France will be linked so that they can effectively identify and tackle any infectious viruses, according to DHA.

Building this infrastructure is important as Dubai will host Expo2020 and more than 60 million people are expected to visit the Emirate.
Al Maidoor said that he was pleased with the meaningful collaboration between Dubai and France.  He said the DHA aims to strengthen medical research in the Emirate and that the Authority is pleased to have signed agreements with prestigious French medical universities during this tour.

Satellite tracking of viruses has become a preferred method of virus monitoring in various countries. Last decennium, the method was adopted by NASA in an attempt to follow the West Nile virus. Through satellite imagery, researchers identified features that could stimulate the existence and spread of the virus, such as patterns of vegetation, rainfall and land-surface temperatures.

Although it was not mentioned which viruses would be the focus of interest in the framework of the partnership between Dubai and France, Lyon stated that cooperation between the parties was important for both sides as Dubai lies on the borders of Africa and Asia.

"With regard to viral exchange, it is important to begin building the infrastructure and research facilities to tackle infectious viruses," he added.

Spread of infectious diseases on the increase recently the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), has caused concern among health care workers and policy makers. On February 3, 2014 an additional laboratory-confirmed case was reported in Abu Dhabi, while a month earlier the first Dubai-based case was diagnosed. Although the virus is most prevalent in the KSA, specialists have called for vigilance especially among travellers in the region.

However, the most challenging infectious disease in Dubai is chicken-pox, said Fatma al Attar, who heads Dubai’s Travelers Clinic, earlier to this website.

According to Wasif Muhammad Alam, Director of the Public Health and Safety Department at DHA, chicken-pox but also hand to mouth diseases or food and water borne diseases are currently not screened in the region and therefore form a heightened challenge in the UAE.

Generally, the spread of infectious diseases is on the increase in Dubai, said Rasha Salama, Senior Specialist at the same department recently at Arab Health Exhibition and Congress.

“The increase in prevalence of many infectious diseases together with the on-going evolution of viral and microbial variants, and selection for drug resistance, suggests that infections will continue to emerge, and probably increase,” she said.

“This emphasises the urgent need for effective surveillance and control in the region. Early warning of emerging and re-emerging infections depends on our ability to identify unusual patterns and occurrences as early as possible. Information exchange and collaboration with GCC countries is, therefore, essential,” she added.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)