NASA's climate satellites will be used to predict and prevent outbreaks of infectious disease, the space agency announced Wednesday, according to various reports.

The network of 14 satellites currently tracks rainfall, vegetation and temperature across much of the globe — factors that affect the spread of tropical diseases such as malaria and the Ebola and West Nile viruses.

"The use of this technology is not only essential for the future of curbing the spread of infectious diseases," said John Haynes, public health program manager of the NASA Earth Science Applied Sciences Program, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia.

"NASA satellites are also a cost-effective method for operational agencies, since they are already in orbit and in use by scientists to collect data about the Earth's atmosphere," added Haynes.

The space agency will be providing data from the satellites to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense.

• Click here to read a report on EarthTimes.org, and here for a more detailed overview at the NASA Web site.