44 countries to hammer out global health issues at Earth Observation Summit

44 countries will hammer out plans for sharing outbreak data at the Earth Observation Summit meeting, to be held Sunday in Tokyo.

On the agenda will be satellites that can help prevent outbreaks of malaria, West Nile virus and other infectious diseases.

They already exist. But their use isn't global yet, because countries and organizations haven't agreed to share the wealth of health data the satellites gather.

At the inaugural Earth Observation Summit, held last July in the United States, more than 30 countries discussed health issues but didn't solidify any detailed policies.

Satellite-data collection is already going on, but in a disparate way. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for example, are trying to find with satellite data the locations where outbreaks caused by mosquitoes and other insects are likely to occur.

Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), along with its counterparts in China and the Philippines, is trying to locate where blood-fluke outbreaks might take place.

Argentina and Chile are considering watching cattle migrations with data from a Japanese satellite to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.

Furthermore, satellite data could also be used to predict increases in ultraviolet rays that could lead to the rise in the number of skin cancer patients. Data could also be used to forecast heat waves that could kill elderly people.

After determining the outbreak area, governments can take measures, including the extermination of disease-carrying insects and the distribution of insecticides.

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