Monday, May 23, 2011

Social Networks and tracking Infections.

I read an article this morning and was immediately reminded of my much loved grandson.
The article was about about tracking an outbreak of Tuberculosis in a town in Canada, and was reported by Jennifer Gardy from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control at the 111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. To track the outbreak they used whole genome sequencing of bacteria combined with intense social network screening of carriers of the disease - not just the usual "who have you been in contact with", but an intense look at what each person had done during each day.
In this particular case they discovered that the infection was being spread at a couple of local crack cocaine houses, where users sat most of the day in poorly ventilated room and weren't particularly concerned who they coughed on.
Now, the word that made me sit up and take notice, and hence made me think of beloved grandchild was, SUPER-SPREADERS! Apparently, a few of those crack users (please note dear reader that my little relative is known to crack a smile, or even crack his head when falling over, but of the illicit chemical, he is blissfully ignorant - and may he remain so for the rest of his long life): a few of the users were described as "socially well connected and symptomatic for long periods of time". Hands up those of you with young ones who go to Kinder or primary school?
Now I'm not suggesting that we start genomic sequencing of all infants with runny noses, but just imagine the help it would give older people, or those on chemotherapy for cancer, those with immune diseases, diabetes, heart and lung disease, if they knew that there was a nasty virus going through their locality? These people could then avoid obvious contact with our young "super-spreaders" in places such as trains, buses, shopping centres etc.
My suggestion is, put up a brief post if your little one has picked up a virus, and just indicate which suburb they might have contracted it (no need to name Kinders, schools or child minding centres -just the postcode) and give others the "heads up", because you never know, your child might be like my precious grandson: not only a Superstar, but also perhaps a Superspreader!
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.


Erin Xx said...

I'm a primary school teacher- currently on sick leave recieving chemotherapy for breast cancer. I have been told by my Drs not to even step foot in my school for fear of infection! But I have two children and I can't NOT take my eldest to pre-school! It's impossible for me to stay away from at least two of the 'super spreaders' I love them too much! Xx

Dr Duncan Jefferson said...

Have you talked to your oncology nurse about the best type of Face Mask to wear to reduce risks of catching a virus? It might just give you a bit of an advantage. I'll keep you in my thoughts for the rest of the year :)