St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message
 

Health and medicine

Researchers' plan to track disease: follow 'Where's George' cash trail

Associated Press
Published January 26, 2006


LOS ANGELES - Scientists think they may have found a better way to predict how diseases like a global flu epidemic could spread: follow the money.

Using the popular "Where's George?" Web site that tracks U.S. dollars, researchers developed a mathematical tool that could help track an infectious disease.

"We are optimistic that this will drastically improve predictions about the geographical spread of epidemics," said Theo Geisel of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, which developed the tool along with the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Details appear in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Fears of a global flu epidemic have risen from the spread of bird flu, a virus that has killed more than 70 people in Asia and Europe since 2003, but which is so far spreading mostly among poultry.

Experts say if the bird flu begins spreading among people, travelers are the most likely way it will become a worldwide threat.

Researchers came up with the idea of studying travelers by tracing how money circulates.

In the study, scientists traced the whereabouts of nearly half a million dollar bills on www.wheresgeorge.com bill-tracking site.

Users register their money and then spend it. They can monitor the money's movement online.

Researchers found that most of the money (57 percent) traveled between 30 miles and 500 miles over about nine months in the U.S.

The scientists found that the money followed a predictable pattern. The method could be used to create more realistic disease models that track the spread of germs and perhaps prevent outbreaks.

[Last modified January 26, 2006, 01:02:16]


Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT