Australia is using a bioterrorism algorithm developed by its defence team to predict flu outbreaks.

Victoria’s health department is using the tool to “minimise the impact of the outbreak”, the government stated, which can “accurately predict flu outbreaks up to eight weeks in advance”.

The analytics tool, called EpiDefend, pools information from “lab-confirmed influenza cases, anonymised GP reports and other environmental data” to strengthen the “accuracy and timeliness of detecting an outbreak”.

”Our team’s goal is dual-purpose, we want to fulfil our defence charter, protecting our forces against intentionally released biological agents; but disease forecasting will also support the national security and public health areas,” said Tony Lau, defence scientist.

The system is now being trialled in New South Wales and Queensland, and the goal is to spread its use across more states for next year’s flu season, he said.

The US Department of Defense funded Australia’s disease forecasting research with $A1 million (US$0.8 million), over a period of two years, with the aim to build a “global bio-surveillance system”, the government added.

Image by Oregon National Guard, licensed under CC BY 2.0