April 27, 2010, 8:52 a.m.
Online Map, Twitter Could Be Used To Predict, Warn Against Spread Of Infectious Diseases
The "Supramap" application, which is an online map that shows the spread of pathogens and significant mutations across time, could be a helpful way for scientists tomonitor and predict infectious disease outbreaks, according to a Cladistics study, the Scientific American reports.
"Using data on the sequenced genetic code of H1N1 and other viruses, the evolutionary and geographic map enables tracking of how a virus moves from its origins to different hosts around the world," according to the publication Daniel Janies, an associate biomedical informatics
professor at Ohio State, said in a YouTube video, "What we're able to do with Google Earth is put that in context.
Essentially, it's like a weather map of disease" (Greenmeier, 4/13).
In related news, a study presented to the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases suggests that Twitter could be used "as an early warning system for epidemics," Agence France-Presse reports. "According to a team of interdisciplinary experts, around three million messages -- or so-called 'tweets' -- posted in English on Twitter between May and December 2009 contained the word 'flu.'" Patty Kostkova, a study co-author, said, "What we're looking at now is, what is the potential of this enormous data set for early warning systems. Because it's a real time media, it can call for an immediate response if required" (3/13).