HealthMap co-founder John Brownstein, PhD, explains how Thermia works and details possible next steps.
Read about Thermia on Boston Children’s Vector blog.
The season is upon us again. No, not fall or football or even holiday—I’m talking about flu season, and all the sneezing, aches and pains that come along with it.
Yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made their annual announcement encouraging Americans young and old to get a flu shot.
“Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to prevent influenza, which is a serious disease that can result in hospitalization or death, especially for young children or people with underlying health conditions,” says Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, an infection control expert and epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Flu is very contagious and can be spread from one person to another even before symptoms develop, so having a high proportion of people vaccinated is important to help limit transmission of the virus during flu season.”
Clearly getting the flu shot is a good idea; especially for families with young children, but one of the questions that at least my family asks every year is where can we get the shot? After all, we have more options now than ever. The corner drugstore? Our doctors’ office? Our neighborhood’s health clinic? And how much does it cost?
We’re not alone, and luckily a tool offered by Boston Children’s HealthMap team can help. Called the HealthMap Vaccine Finder, it’s essentially like a Google Maps for tracking down the flu vaccine. Plug in your address and city or zip code, and it pulls up a map listing pharmacies, clinics, etc. in your area offering the vaccine.
Apart from basic information like address, hours and phone number for each location, the tool can also tell you which kind of flu vaccine they offer (shot, intradermal shot, high-dose shot or nasal spray), what they charge (if anything) and whether they accept insurance.
There’s even a function to help you figure out which version of the flu vaccine could be appropriate for you.
“People sometimes have a hard time deciding where to get a flu shot because there are lots of factors involved in the decision,” says John Brownstein, PhD, who leads the HealthMap team and who last year showed how getting the shot really can make a difference. “We’ve been working with lots of different companies and agencies to pull all information on location, price and vaccine type together into one place for consumers. We hope it helps encourage more people to get the shot.”
You can use the finder here:
Or by visiting flu.gov. Keep checking it, because later this year the HealthMap team will expand the Vaccine Finder to include information on another 10 adult vaccines (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, MMR, meningococcal, pneumococcal, Td, Tdap, varicella and zoster).
And webmasters and bloggers: Help your readers and users get vaccinated by putting this Vaccine Finder widget on your website!
Children’s Hospital Boston, in association with Harvard Medical School, just launched an updated version of HealthMap, a web-based global surveillance tool used to monitor infectious diseases and their effect on the populations where outbreaks occur. Co-created by John Brownstein, PhD of Children’s Informatics Program, the webpage is an easy to read site that operates in real time and lets users track current disease outbreaks by pulling data and news stories from over 20,000 sources.
With as many as 150,000 visitors a day, HealthMap has users from all reaches of the medical community. From concerned moms keeping an eye on a rash of new chicken pox cases in their hometown to members of the World Health Organization collecting aggregated data on the pattern of H1N1 outbreaks in rural China, HealthMap is a user-friendly way for people of all backgrounds to quickly assess data and news stories on infectious disease, from anywhere in the world as they are occurring.