News / USA

    New Technology Used to Track US Flu Outbreak

    New Technology Used to Track US Flu Outbreaki
    X
    January 14, 2013 12:38 AM
    As influenza season peaks in the United States, one researcher is working to bring the public into tracking the epidemic. Using new technology, he may be able to provide public health officials with useful information more quickly than the usual methods. And he is applying the new tools to study disease outbreaks around the world. VOA's Steve Baragona has more from Boston.
    New Technology Used to Track US Flu Outbreak
    As influenza season peaks in the United States, one researcher is working to bring the public into tracking the epidemic.  Using new technology, he may be able to provide public health officials with useful information more quickly than the usual methods.  And he is applying the new tools to study disease outbreaks around the world.

    Boston Children's Hospital epidemiologist John Brownstein is literally pinning down where the flu outbreak is occurring.  “All the pins represent the people who are reporting to the system," he said.

    The sea of pins on his virtual U.S. map represents the nationwide network of volunteers for his website, Flu Near You. "The idea is, getting people with a small amount of time each week to tell us how they're feeling," he said.

    A short weekly email survey asks each person about his or her health. In just a few months, Flu Near You has recruited 40,000 volunteers and keeps growing.
     
    Boston Children's Hospital epidemiologist John Brownstein (VOA / S. Baragona)Boston Children's Hospital epidemiologist John Brownstein (VOA / S. Baragona)
    x
    Boston Children's Hospital epidemiologist John Brownstein (VOA / S. Baragona)
    Boston Children's Hospital epidemiologist John Brownstein (VOA / S. Baragona)
    “So we say, putting the public back in public health," said Brownstein.

    Hospitals and doctors' offices were seeing rising numbers of flu cases in late December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.  But Brownstein says he is ahead of the others in terms of information.

    “And Flu Near You is showing that we've already peaked and are heading down.  And in fact the latest numbers that are coming out from the CDC actually agree that this has already come down," he said.

    Oddelio Reid fills out paperwork before getting an influenza vaccine injection during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts January 12, 2013.Oddelio Reid fills out paperwork before getting an influenza vaccine injection during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts January 12, 2013.
    x
    Oddelio Reid fills out paperwork before getting an influenza vaccine injection during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts January 12, 2013.
    Oddelio Reid fills out paperwork before getting an influenza vaccine injection during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts January 12, 2013.
    Brownstein plans to take the system global and expand it to other diseases.

    He currently runs another website, HealthMap, that for seven years has tracked outbreaks worldwide.

    He says as a graduate student he grew weary of begging health ministers for information. “And so we had this idea, well, what if we mined the Web looking for clues about outbreaks via news, social media, blogs, chat rooms, discussion forums," he said.

    In Haiti's deadly 2010 cholera outbreak, HealthMap's automated Web searches provided early information on the trajectory of the disease.

    Today, he is following an ebola outbreak in Uganda. “We think there's opportunities to really track emerging infectious diseases with these tools," he said.

    Tools that pinpoint where diseases are occurring now.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora