Blog Post

Virtual Epidemiology

A recent article in Discovery News reports on HealthMap, an infectious disease-tracking Web site that "culls through news Web sites, public health list servs, the WorldHealth Organization's online pages, and other Web sites in sixdifferent languages to pinpoint outbreaks of disease that real-world doctors can then act on."

HealthMap is smart enough to filter through all the disease-related metaphoric language we regularly use (for example, it will note "an incident of bubonic plague in Siberia...whileensuring that a "plague" of home foreclosures in northern California doesn't show up on the free access Google Maps."

So far the program identifies about 95 percent of all disease outbreaks, and some of them days before the World Health Organization or the Centers of Disease Control announce them, such as with the recent salmonella outbreak in the US.

HealthMap is now seeking to expand,  hoping to incorporate "more 'noisy' sources of information, such as blogs and chat rooms."


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