As the global death toll and the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to rise, it is easy to start believing that this is a losing battle. While most countries have implemented social distancing measures indefinitely, it’s possible that there is more than can be done beyond containment. For example, artificial intelligence(AI) provides hope for a much healthier future, as people in the community rally to try and use AI to help fight coronavirus.
Rodney Don Holder is an audio/visual and security specialist currently serving as vice president of business development and operations at CEI in Dahlonega, Georgia. Throughout his career, he has worked for companies like Digital Equipment, KMC Telecom, AT&T, Identica, Johnson Controls, and Southeastern Security Professionals. He shares three key ways that AI is helping battle COVID-19.
Tracking the Virus
One way that AI is helping battle COVID-19 is by tracking the spread of the virus, shares Rodney Don Holder. AI has the ability, in collaboration with human expertise, to track the spread of infectious diseases around the world. How does it do this? AI has algorithms that are able to consolidate and analyze data from a wide variety of sources. Such sources include news reports, commercial flights, and statements from health organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). From there, AI tools can look for patterns that could predict an outbreak through machine learning and natural language processing.
The patterns that this technology finds are then brought to epidemiologists, doctors, and scientists to examine further. Thus, AI can be helpful in tracking exactly where (down to the city) that the next big outbreak of the coronavirus will be, allowing government and health officials to take action that will hopefully mitigate the effects.
Detecting the Virus
Another important way that AI is helping during the coronavirus pandemic is by detecting a COVID-19 infection in medical imagery. Anyone who has been keeping up with the news knows that coronavirus tests are in short supply. Thus, scientists and researchers have been rapidly searching for alternative methods of testing. AI provides just that. With the use of artificial intelligence, it may be possible to detect COVID-19 in x-ray and CT scans.
Previously, the CDC warned against using chest imaging to confirm COVID-19 as it can be hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the common flu. However, AI works to right this wrong using superior computer vision. While the flu and COVID-19 present almost the same on a scan (their differences are extremely subtle, often making it too difficult for a human radiologist to detect), there is hope that AI can be used to pick up on these tiny changes. Rodney Don Holder asserts that deep learning algorithms are especially good at picking out small details in visual data.
Predicting Respiratory Disease
Finally, Rodney Don Holder claims that one incredible way AI is helping during the pandemic is by being able to predict which COVID-19 patients may develop a serious respiratory disease as a result of the infection. There is a specific AI tool that so far has been able to accurately predict which newly-infected COVID-19 patients would go on to contract a respiratory disease.
Similarly, work is also being done within the artificial intelligence community to predict which patients are most vulnerable to the virus. More specifically, this would provide doctors with the capability to tell which patients will end up developing the most severe or even life-threatening symptoms of the virus.
Rodney Don Holder on Preventing COVID-19
Despite the fact that AI is helping in the battle against the novel Coronavirus, it is still important to take precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones, says Rodney Don Holder. Make sure you are consistently washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer to kill viruses that could be on your skin. Ensure to maintain proper social distancing of 1 meter or 3 feet when you are around people that do not live in your household. This includes when you are walking outside or if you are in the grocery store. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, as your hands can pick up the virus from surface areas.
At this time as well, it is important to only leave your home for work, to go to the grocery store, or to pick up medication. You should not be visiting family or friends that live in different households until it is safe to do so. If you do have to leave your home, use appropriate safety precautions. We must all do our part to flatten the curve.
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