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Crawling The Internet To Track Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Date:
July 8, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
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.

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.

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"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 (http://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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brownstein et al. Surveillance Sans Frontiθres: Internet-Based Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence and the HealthMap Project. PLoS Medicine, 2008; 5 (7): e151 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050151

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Crawling The Internet To Track Infectious Disease Outbreaks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707222326.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, July 8). Crawling The Internet To Track Infectious Disease Outbreaks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707222326.htm
Public Library of Science. "Crawling The Internet To Track Infectious Disease Outbreaks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707222326.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

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