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by Mike Zazaian October 19, 2006 - 12:28pm, No Comments

An outbreak in Iowa displayed in the Healthmaps interface

A new website called Healthmap uses automated scripts to scour global news for reports of diseases, then displays the outbreak locales with icons across a Google Maps interface.

The project, which developed for the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program in Boston, constantly searches 50 news bureaus ranging from the World Health Organization to Google News to find and report on known diseases. The software then displays the information as icons across the Google Maps globe, automatically updating and revising icons as more news breaks.

Physician John Brownstein and software developer Clark Freifeld, who collaborated on the project, have enabled visitors to sort disease data in several ways. Users can display all data on a single disease, or on all known diseases. Users can sort data by individual country, or by a number of selected countries. The specific news sources from which Healthmap retrieves its data can also be selected, or de-selected, allowing a high level of customization. Changing these sources changes the way that Healthmap operates, with smaller, less-reliable sources such as blogs publishing information more quickly, while articles from more reputable organizations take longer to update and refresh. Said Brownstein of the process:

You always have this trade-off between timeliness and specificity.

[via Wired]