Web-Based Tool Was First To Spot Ebola

Mike Miliard | Healthcare IT News | August 12, 2014

Crowd-sourced technology saw the outbreak taking place in real-time, before WHO announcement

The West African Ebola outbreak – already the largest, longest-lasting such contagion yet – continues to worsen. While the World Health Organization will be essential to stop it, one online database was the first to see it start.  Launched in 2006, HealthMap is a joint project from Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital.

Initially envisioned as a tool for epidemiologists and public health workers, it wasn't long before the site became popular among the general public as they sought to keep abreast of the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. As the AP reported on Monday, the site has once again proven its mettle, detecting the current Ebola outbreak -- what it first described as a "mystery hemorrhagic fever" -- appearing in Guinea back in March. This was a full nine days before the WHO made a formal announcement.

Run by several dozen contagious disease experts and software developers at Boston Children's, HealthMap "brings together disparate data sources, including online news aggregators, eyewitness reports, expert-curated discussions and validated official reports, to achieve a unified and comprehensive view of the current global state of infectious diseases and their effect on human and animal health."...