Are you looking to read reviews about the new Greek restaurant that opened up down the street? Google it. In an argument about who drove in the final runs in the Red Sox’s 2004 world series run? Google is right there to let you know it was Trot Nixon. While most of us use Google for seemingly trivial purposes, (I know Sox fans, ’04 was anything BUT trivial in your eyes) researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston are using the powerful search engine to fight disease.
A team from the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP), led by John Brownstein, PhD, put their heads together with people from Google and found that web-based search data is a great info sharing source for citizens and public health officials alike. With this in mind, the team recently turned their attention towards tracking outbreaks of dengue, a mosquito-borne virus affecting 500 million people living in tropical parts of the globe. To help accurately record dengue outbreaks as they occur, CHIP and Google have created an online tool called Denguetrends, which collects information on dengue activity as it occurs in real time. The advantage of this type of data aggregation is that it warns people when dengue is being reported in their area and gives public health officials the chance to immediately respond to outbreaks as they happen, instead of waiting for data to be collected and processed. Its creators hope the tool will lead to faster response times and more efficient management of dengue outbreaks.
“By using search data, we’re tapping into a freely-available, instant dataset that can be gathered, analyzed and released much more quickly and at much lower effort and cost than through traditional national surveillance and reporting programs,” said Brownstein, director of the Computational Epidemiology Group in CHIP. “The kind of information the tool provides can help direct public health officials target interventions aimed at mosquito control and disease prevention, such as education campaigns, as early as possible.” …
- A new study in the journal Science says vaccinating students should be a priority this year. CHIP researcher John Brownstein, PhD, was quoted this week in an AP story about the study.
- This week, World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 1,799 people have died from H1N1 worldwide.
- South Korea, Japan, Ghana, Madagascar, Yemen, Malta, New Caledonia (France), Kuwait, and Cook Islands each reported their first H1N1 fatalities. French Polynesia reported its first death, but diagnostic tests performed in France raised questions about the validity of this report.
- The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Belarus each reported their first confirmed H1N1 case.
- In the United States, federal officials urged businesses to prepare for a resurgence in swine flu. Recommendations included flexible sick leave, cross-training individuals with mission critical tasks, limiting face-to-face meetings and travel and encouraging hand washing. …
For the upcoming influenza season, the team from HealthMap, within the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program, are introducing a weekly summary of H1N1 (swine flu) news highlights. These will be posted on Fridays and will cover the preceding week.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) reported the global confirmed swine flu case count was rapidly approaching 200,000.