that may one day allow public health officials to better track and predict the spread of West Nile Virus. NASA's goal is to provide people on the front lines of public health with innovative technologies, data and a unique vantage point from space through satellites, all tailored into useful tools and databases for streamlining efforts to combat the disease.
NASA's Public Health Applications Program focuses the results of research occurring at different NASA centers. The program is designed to eventually supply public health agencies with access to NASA's cutting-edge capabilities in formats they can use to better understand how and where West Nile Virus spreads, focus resources and stave off the disease more efficiently.
"The goal of the program is to extend the benefits of NASA's investments in Earth system science, technology and data toward public-health decision making and practice," said Robert Venezia, program manager at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
West Nile Virus, first reported in the United States in 1999, causes flu-like symptoms that may lead to fatal encephalitis in people with compromised immune systems, like the elderly. Though not yet proven, scientists believe the disease may be spread across the country by infected birds traveling along their migration routes. Mosquitoes that act as a vector carry the virus and pass it on when feeding on hosts like birds, livestock, other animals and people.
Based on what is known about the disease, NASA centers, including the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., are researching methods to identify environmental indicators from data acquired on NASA Earth Observing Systems, packaged in ways that highlight factors relevant to West Nile Virus transmission.