Scientists use Web site to track money and predict diseases

Scientists think they may have found a better way to predict how diseases like a global &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/20/91/365/16320_.html' target=_blank>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 chart the path of 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 Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Fears of a global flu epidemic have arisen 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 easily only among poultry. International health officials fear the virus could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans.