Ebola, as I write, is ravaging several African countries, with the most optimistic predictions hoping that the rate of increase of horrible deaths will reach zero early in 2015. A recently discovered virus meets inadequate medical infrastructure and we have a classic public health problem on the scale of the cholera outbreaks that spurred the Victorians to build sewers, if not of the repeated plagues that swept London two centuries earlier.
When I think ‘public health’ this week, two stories spring to mind - Ebola and London parks, from the appalling to the ridiculous.
Last month in Berlin, Kenyan athlete Dennis Kimetto broke the men’s Marathon world record running it in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds, 26 seconds less than the previous record. This world record time has steadily been shortened by runners over the last hundred years. Looking at the sequence of yearly best performances, what long-term forecasts can we make in the context of this new world record?
New York City’s rat problem is infamous. The media describes a metropolis under never-ending siege by super-vicious, hyper-intelligent rodents. The problem has garnered so much attention that the city has held several hearings, developed a comprehensive extermination plan, and even convened a summit on the issue. While the true population of rats in New York City (NYC) is unknown, urban legend states that there are as many rats as people: roughly 8 million.
Onchocerciasis, or river blindness as it’s more commonly known, is a major public health problem in the wet tropics and especially in tropical Africa. This eye and skin disease is caused by a filaria worm called Onchocerca volvulus that is spread to humans through the bite of an infected blackfly.
Shared and open data promise to create big opportunities for business, science and society - but major headaches await when it comes to preserving privacy. Can we balance the demand for information with the need to protect individuals? And how are statistical models helping to keep our data safe from hackers, crackers and cyber attackers?