A method for predicting the spread of the corona virus in advance, initiated and developed by scientists from the Weizmann Institute and the Hebrew University, may allow the authorities to focus on areas where an outbreak is expected - and make it easier for other areas. Several countries, including the USA, have started to adopt the new method * Now the ability to answer the questions using a chatbot has also been added
Regional map of average symptoms characterizing COVID-19. Shown are areas in different cities where there are at least 30 respondents, or neighborhoods with at least 10 respondents to the questionnaire. Each area is colored according to a category determined according to the average amount of symptoms reported by the respondents in that area. Green - low percentage of symptoms, red - high percentage of symptoms
A method for monitoring, identifying and predicting areas of spread of the corona virus initiated and developed by Weizmann Institute of Science scientists, in collaboration with researchers from the Hebrew University and General Health Services and in coordination with the Ministry of Health, is gaining wide international interest. The method - which other countries in the world have begun to implement - is based on questionnaires for the general public, which monitor the development of symptoms caused by the virus, and on the analysis of the data obtained from these questionnaires, using "big data" algorithms and artificial intelligence. The spread of the virus occurs in clusters of infection, and therefore early identification of the clusters may allow various actions aimed at slowing down the spread of the virus.
A pilot launched in Israel about a week ago by Prof. Eran Segal and Prof. Binyamin Giger from the Weizmann Institute of Science and Prof. Yuval Dor from the Hebrew University received a great response from the public - so far about 60,000 Israelis have filled out the questionnaires. From a preliminary analysis of the data, the scientists were able to identify a significant increase in the symptoms reported by the population, in neighborhoods where confirmed corona patients had passed. This accurate mapping - at the level of neighborhoods - may allow the health authorities to focus on areas where an outbreak and spread of the virus is expected - while providing relief to areas where spread is not expected.
"These questionnaires are the only tool that can provide a general picture of the outbreak of the virus throughout the country. It is important to note that they are not intended to replace the effort to increase the number of tests to detect patients and carriers. However, the testing capacity will never be able to encompass the entire population - for both logistical and economic reasons," clarifies Prof. Segal. "We believe that our method may be a strategic tool for the Ministry of Health to handle the crisis."
The scientists continued the development process together with Prof. Ran Blitzer from the Klalit Research Institute and other researchers and recently published, together, an article on the MedrXiv website about the method and also called on other countries to implement the method. Many countries including the United States, India, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom have also begun to adopt the questionnaire method. These days the scientists are working to establish an international forum, led by Prof. Segal and researchers from the United States, with the aim of sharing data and insights and jointly building tools for prediction and comparison between the different countries.
It is important to clarify: this questionnaire does not diagnose infection with the virus. Also, the questionnaire is anonymous, and all data will be used solely for the purpose of monitoring the spread of the virus. The scientists take all measures to maintain the privacy of the senders and the security of the information.