Sobering news keeps coming out of the West African Ebola outbreak. According to numbers released on August 6, the virus has sickened 1,711 and claimed 932 lives across four nations. The outbreak continues to grow, with a high risk of continued regional spread, according to a threat analysis released by HealthMap (an outbreak tracking system operated out of Boston Children’s Hospital) and Bio.Diaspora (a Canadian project that monitors communicable disease spread via international travel).
“What we’ve seen here—because of inadequate public health measures, because of general fear—is [an outbreak that] truly hasn’t been kept under control,”John Brownstein, PhD, co-founder of HealthMap and a computational epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News. “The event started, calmed down and jumped up again. Now, we’re seeing movement into densely populated areas, which is highly concerning.”
If you’re interested in keeping tabs on the outbreak yourself, there are several tools that can help:
HealthMap’s Ebola map. The HealthMap team is maintaining a dedicated, interactive map and timeline of the epidemic athealthmap.org/ebola (embedded at the top of this post). Both map and timeline are regularly updated as new information becomes available, as is the HealthMap Twitter account.ProMED. The International Society for Infectious Disease, a non-profit organization for infectious and emerging disease research, operatesProMED, a disease news monitoring service that tracks outbreaks of human and veterinary infectious diseases. ProMED (short for Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases) has been sending out regular email and Twitter alerts about the Ebola outbreak since it was first noticed in March.US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is regularly posting updated news and patient counts—as well as travel and preparedness guidance and other information about the virus—on both their website and Twitter.World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO’s Global Alert and Response system is providing regular updates on disease spread and control efforts. The organization is also distributing updates via its Twitter feed.
Not only is this a great site, but when I went in, it automatically identified that I live in New Zealand and showed me areas close to me where there are notifiable diseases. It showed that currently measles is growing around our country. This is a great site to check out, whether you are traveling overseas and want to see if there are things you want to be forewarned about, perhaps be inoculated against, or in the case of something like Ebola, places you might be better off staying well away from at least in the short to medium term.
I recommend checking it out, whether you are traveling, or simply want to see great use of maps to show real time data. The time-lapse video showing the expansion of Ebola is fascinating. This is the sort of thing we usually just see on movies showing the CDC, like one of my favorite TV shows 24. Where’s Jack Bauer when you need him? Oh, I here a rumor he may be coming back:)