How AI Is Fighting The Coronavirus

How AI is Fighting the Coronavirus

by Marla Keene — 4 years ago in Health 3 min. read

The world is watching as the novel coronavirus continues to spread at an alarming rate across China and China launched a mobile app to inform you whether you have had”close contact” with the coronavirus.  There are now confirmed cases in twenty-six countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK.  The virus has sickened at least 52,000 people and caused over 1700 deaths.  These numbers now far exceed those infected during the MERS-CoV or the 2002-2003 SARS-CoV outbreak.  

What we know about the novel coronavirus thus far: 

  • Person-to-person transmission is possible
  • The virus can be transmitted while a patient is asymptomatic (not showing symptoms)
  • Symptoms appear in 2 to 14 days
  • A vaccine is not currently available
  • Estimated 2% fatality rate. 
  • 80% of all fatalities have occurred in patients over the age of 60.  

It is important to understand information about Covid-19 is likely going to change on a daily–or even more often–basis as new information becomes available.  While similar diseases like SARS and MERS have been studied for decades, Covid-19 has its own patterns of transmission and risk factors for infection.  

While the World Health Organization has declared a global emergency and countries work to contain the virus, scientists and health workers are turning to unusual technologies to try to limit the disease’s spread.  By harnessing the benefits of Artificial Intelligence, or AI,  scientists hope to track, deal, and eventually find a treatment for the outbreak. Continue reading to find out more. 

Identifying the Virus Outbreak

BlueDot offers AI insights on infectious diseases, world demographics, and climate, using data insights pulled from over 100 datasets.  A venture-based startup, BlueDot is headed by Kamran Khan, an infectious disease physician who was a premier healthcare worker during the 2003 SARS outbreak.  BlueDot identified the 2019-nCoV outbreak a week before the US Centers for Disease Control and has recently been instrumental in helping to identify cities and regions in China and around the world most at risk to the spreading virus due to air travel. 

Diagnosing Infected Individuals

Many companies offering online medical consultation and health services have updated their AI chatbots to follow up questions about fever and cough with inquiries about recent travel.  While flu is the typical cause for elevated temperature, close to 300 US patients who have reached out to health services (either AI or live) have been referred to CDC for further testing.  Thus far, eleven have been positive for the coronavirus symptoms

Finding a Possible Treatment 

Benevolent AI, a UK healthcare firm that uses artificial intelligence to develop and improve pharmaceutical drugs, recently published a paper in The Lancet claiming their AI knowledge graph has identified Eli Lilly’s rheumatoid arthritis treatment Olumiant (Baricitinib) as a possible treatment for 2019-nCoV.  The company stated the drug would “reduce both the viral entry and the inflammation in patients, using endpoints such as the MuLBSTA score, an early warning model for predicting mortality in viral pneumonia.” 

Artificial intelligence may also play a part in an eventual vaccine.  AI can look at similar viruses that already have vaccines and identify patterns that could otherwise be overlooked.  This gives virologists a better chance of creating a successful vaccine. 
Also read: 10 Best Saas Marketing Tools And Platforms For 2021

How to protect yourself

If you’re concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, you can follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations for basic protective measures.  This includes frequently washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing and coughing into your elbow or into a tissue.   Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.    The WHO also suggests seeking medical care early as a general precaution if you show signs of a fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing. These practices will also protect you from other more common dangers like influenza and the common cold. 

Additionally, while fear of the unknown can be significant, it is important to remain well-informed of the real situation rather than spread unfounded rumors.  It is also important to focus on numbers-based information rather than speculation. Over 98% of all of cases are contained within China at the moment. While 25 other countries have confirmed cases of the disease, world and local health officials continue to make every effort to limit its spread.

Marla Keene

Marla Keene is a technical writer for AX Control, Inc.Her guest posts have appeared on, Medium, and, as well as dozens of industry sites.

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