Westchester and IBM Wage Zika War

Whether by turning your smartphone into a supercomputer or offering guidance on insect repellant, our county’s tackling the virus head-on.

Turns out that accident-prone rectangle (i.e. smartphone) you rely on to update all your virtual friends is actually a pretty powerful computing device. IBM, which operates a corporate HQ here in Armonk, have announced they’re hoping to harness the power of your Android phone, tablet, or PC to run virtual experiments on potential compounds that may treat the Zika virus, which is of increasing concern as warm weather approachesThe initiative is part of the  OpenZika Project, a global and collaborative effort to discover an anti-Zika drug being powered by IBM’s World Community Grid, which aspires, in the company’s words, to be the “largest public computing grid benefiting humanity.” 

Anyone can contribute by simply running an app that IBM has developed on their desktop or mobile device, which will then carry out virtual experiments when your device is dormant. According to IBM, 714,000 volunteers have already participated, and in the spirit of OpenZika’s larger transparency, all testing results will be available to the general public. 

Meanwhile, in Valhalla yesterday, Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino elaborated on his administration’s plan to protect residents. In addition to supplying free minnows and applying larvacide to catch basins on roads around the county, the Westchester County Department of Health (DOH) plans on doubling the number of mosquito-trap sites, including ones specifically designed to lure in Zika-carrying mosquitos. Moreover, they’re identifying area for limited ground spraying in the event of a local outbreak. 

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Of course, the best way to avoid contracting the disease is to take matters into your own hands. If you are in a mosquito-prone area, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, stay in places with air conditioning, or use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Also, apply insect repellents, and remain aware of any standing water on your property, whether it be in a garbage can, gutter, or anywhere with poor drainage. IBM and the DOH can’t curb this thing on their own.

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