Stories tagged healthmap


Pandemic prevention in Mexico City
Pandemic prevention in Mexico CityCourtesy Chupacabras

No mass at Cathedral of Mexico City Sunday

In addition to churches, Mexico closed schools, museums, libraries and theaters, hoping to contain the outbreak of a swine flu variety that is killing people. Officials say as many as 81 people have died and more than 1,300 others are sickened from a new type of flu.

The virus contains genetic pieces from four different flu viruses; North American swine influenza, North American avian influenza, human influenza A N1H1, and swine influenza viruses found in Asia and Europe.

Swine flu symptoms

Symptoms of the flu-like illness include a fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), body aches, coughing, a sore throat, respiratory congestion and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. Click this link for more key facts about swine influenza (swine flu).

Global swine flu alert

China, Russia and Taiwan plan to put anyone with symptoms of the deadly virus under quarantine. Ten students from New Zealand who took a school trip to Mexico "likely" caught this swine flu. Four possible cases of swine flu are currently under investigation in France. More than 100 students at the St. Francis Preparatory School, in Queens, New York recently began suffering a fever, sore throat and aches and pains. Some of them had recently been in Mexico.

"The United States government is working with the World Health Organization and other international partners to assure early detection and warning and to respond as rapidly as possible to this threat," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC, said during a Friday afternoon press briefing.

How to track illnesses globally

There are several useful online resources that track health information and disease outbreaks.

  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) has an Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR) webpage.

    As of 26 April 2009, the United States Government has reported 20 laboratory confirmed human cases of swine influenza A/H1N1 (8 in New York, 7 in California, 2 in Texas, 2 in Kansas and 1 in Ohio).

  2. HealthMap is a website that aggregates news feeds from the WHO, Google News, ProMED, and elsewhere to map out all of the disease outbreaks. (Click the box in front of influenza under "Diseases, last 30 days" to see just flu cases.)

What is a pandemic?

The WHO's pandemic alert level is currently up to phase 3. The organization said the level could be raised to phase 4 if the virus shows sustained ability to pass from human to human. Phase 5 would be reached if the virus is found in at least two countries in the same region.

"The declaration of phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short," WHO said. Associated Press

Phase 6 would indicate a full-scale global pandemic.



HealthMap screen capture
HealthMap screen captureCourtesy Art Oglesby

Want a warning about disease outbreaks?

With the internet's new capabilities, new information is highly contagious. The web is increasingly being used to exchange information about public health and disease outbreaks. Now, thanks to HealthMap anyone can track where and when infectious disease outbreaks are occurring.

Web crawlers, automated translation, GIS mapmaking, ISP tracking, and cell phone imagery have created a world where, for good or ill, rumors of outbreaks outpace confirmation. The Journal of Life Sciences

Colored pins point to disease outbreaks

Using what is often referred to as Web 2.0 dynamics, crawls the internet for disease outbreak information, integrating information from various sources like Google News, ProMED, and World Health Organization disease alerts. Through an automated text processing system, the data is sorted by disease and overlayed by location on top of Google Maps.

Want to learn more about HealthMap?

HealthMap was created by Clark Freifeld and John Brownstein through Children's Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP) at Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. Click this link to view a presentation about HealthMap given at a Georeferencing Workshop at Harvard, March 21, 2008 by John Brownstein.