Crawling the Internet to track infectious disease outbreaks

Jul 08, 2008

Could Internet discussion forums, listservs, and online news outlets be an informative source of information on disease outbreaks? A team of researchers from Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School thinks so, and it has launched a real-time, automated data-gathering system called HealthMap to gather, organize and disseminate this online intelligence. They describe their project in this week's PLoS Medicine.

"Web-based electronic information sources," say John Brownstein and colleagues from the HealthMap project, "can play an important role in early event detection and support situational awareness by providing current, highly local information about outbreaks, even from areas relatively invisible to traditional global public health efforts."

However, information overload and difficulties in distinguishing "signal from noise" pose substantial barriers to fully using this information. To overcome these problems, the authors created the freely accessible HealthMap Project (www.healthmap.org), which they describe as a "multistream real-time surveillance platform that continually aggregates reports on new and ongoing infectious disease outbreaks." These reports are organized and disseminated in a variety of ways, including creating disease maps and "situational awareness windows."

Ultimately, say Brownstein and colleagues, the use of news media and other nontraditional sources of surveillance data can "facilitate early outbreak detection, increase public awareness of disease outbreaks prior to their formal recognition, and provide an integrated and contextualized view of global health information."

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Scientists discover robust evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is a biological illness

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lighting up a new path for novel synthetic polio vaccine

Feb 13, 2015

Scientists from the UK and US are using technology that helped in the design of a new synthetic vaccine to combat the foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) to now target the virus that causes polio. The synthetic ...

How we can each fight cybercrime with smarter habits

Jan 26, 2015

Hackers gain access to computers and networks by exploiting the weaknesses in our cyber behaviors. Many attacks use simple phishing schemes – the hacker sends an email that appears to come from a trusted ...

Recommended for you

Home walking program improves erectile function after MI

20 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For men with recent acute myocardial infarction, a home-based walking program is associated with a reduction in reported erectile dysfunction (ED), according to a study published in the March ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.