NASA a Key Figure in the Latest Research on Disease and Illness

“The use of this technology is not only essential for the future of curbing the spread of infectious diseases,” explains John Haynes, public health program manager for the NASA Earth Science Applied Sciences Program, at the 2007 American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Meeting in Philadelphia. “NASA satellites are also a cost-effective method for operational agencies since they are already in orbit and in use by scientists to collect data about the Earth’s atmosphere.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Applied Science Program and their high-tech 14 orbiting satellites have recently joined forces with the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, in order for scientists to eventually be able to predict and prevent the major infectious disease outbreaks that are developing around the world so rapidly, which makes NASA one of the key figures in the global research for global disease and illness.

A specialty method used for this assistance is a remote sensing technology that is able to find these new diseases and illnessessuch as those of Ebola, West Nile virus, and Rift Valley Fever. Remote sensing technology is the same high-tech assistance that NASA used for the massive fire crisis in California this past summer to help the firefighters put it out. Similarly, with inputs of daily data that is being received from the orbiting satellites, scientists who specialize in the study of global diseases and illnesses are using NASA’s satellite data for information to learn about them, with the focus of remote sensing technology having the ability to monitor these infectious outbreaks of contagious diseases, especially in areas that seem to be prone to diseases such as malaria, plague or Hanta virus outbreaks through insects or rodents.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene considers plagues to be a “bio-terrorism agent,” as it allows NASA surveillance systems to enable the scientists to decipher where or not an outbreak is an act of bio-terrorism or is caused naturally. NASA itself considers malaria to be the most infectious disease of the world as malaria risks involve approximately 40 percent of the world. The NASA satellites are utilized by the Malaria Modeling and Surveillance Project Sciences in Thailand, along with the United States Naval Medical Research Unit in Indonesia. The combined data is studied in order to monitor whatever environmental characteristics have the ability to effect malaria transmissions in certain tropical or subtropical locations, such as Southeast Asia.

The Malaria Modeling and Surveillance Project provides the assistance of major public health organization which can increase warning times for quicker responses for malaria outbreakspreparation and utilization of pesticides for a reduction in drug resistant malaria strains, and damage to the environment. Malaria affects about 300 to 500 million people a year, with the Four Corners area of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah considered to be one of the most susceptible areas for plague and Hanta virus.

“NASA satellite remote sensing technology has been an important tool in the last few years to not only provide scientists with the data needed to respond to epidemic threats quickly, but to also help predict the future of infectious diseases in areas where diseases were never a main concern,” says Mr. Haynes. “Changing environments due to global warming have the ability to change environmental habitats so drastically that diseases such as malaria may become common in areas that have never been previously at-risk.”