Up until a few months ago, most had never heard of the Zika Forest in Uganda, or the virus that bears this region's name. Today, news of the infectious disease is spreading across the US sparking fear and concern. The mosquito-borne virus has gripped many parts of Brazil and has been found in many adjacent countries. It now threatens the United States as transmission has already been found in Puerto Rico. At this moment, there have been no locally-acquired cases in the rest of America but that may change with the coming spring and summer months.
Whether it's the outbreak of an infectious disease or news of a terrorist attack, social media is a powerful tool to spread information. But exactly how information gets transmitted, and how clearly, isn't well understood. In order to better comprehend and predict public understanding of risk, team of German researchers conducted the first study, published today in PNAS, to test social transmission's effect on our understanding of risk
In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists found that during the worst outbreaks in Japan, the wind blew in from an agricultural region of Northeast China. Kids came down with the disease within six hours to two days of the shift in winds (and fortunes), suggesting that it isn't some sort of infectious disease, as has been theorized. If it were infectious, the researchers wrote, they wouldn't expect such a quick incubation period, and the kids would be unlikely to come down with symptoms at roughtly the same time, as has been observed.
For humans, few things are as ubiquitous as the common cold. We catch it more than any other infectious disease and it's been with us as about as long as we've existed. But while there isn't a cure, our technology is constantly improving, and now in our corner we have Australia's fastest supercomputer helping to work out a solution.