The movie Contagion premiers on Friday September 9th. It’s an action/thriller that focuses on the threat of a modern disease pandemic. The movie features a star-studded cast and a spokes person for the film claims the movie will realistically depict a pandemic as closely as possible. With its release, a new wave of concerns and conversations is certain to crop up about how well prepared we are as a country and a globe to deal with pandemics.
Pandemics rank in the top five things preppers and survivalists find themselves most concerned with. In recent years with viral strains like H1N1 influenza, this concern has begun to creep into the consciousness of the more main-stream population.
Finding information about how to protect yourself is pretty simple; the Internet is loaded with articles. But what about staying on top of what’s going on beyond just what the talking heads on TV tell us? Wouldn’t you like to know about the trends before the hysteria happens? Luckily there are a couple of great websites out there to help those of us who want to stay on top of things without spending all day on the chore.
Google Flu Trends
Based on the theory that people are more likely to search for information about the flu when they have the flu, Google introduced Google Flu Trends.
From Google Flu Trends:
We’ve found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity.
How Flu Trends works is pretty fascinating and ingenious. Based on the information gathered, Flu Trends typically matches the CDC reports very closely, and more importantly, two weeks before CDC reports.
It’s not terribly fancy and it doesn’t tell you much, but what Google Flu Trends does do is give you a global map showing hot spots of potential flu outbreaks by country. Countries are show in a color range from Green to Red. Green being minimal and Red being intense. Hold your mouse over the map and it displays the intensity level – just in case you were confused by the chart and color-coded graph.
Flu Trends can also be viewed through Google Earth as an overlay.
If you live and die by your inbox, you will love Google Alerts. It allows you to create searches for new information that pops up on the web, and to have it delivered at timed intervals to your email inbox.
For the last year I have played with Google Alerts to keep me apprised of such things as riots, pandemics, super bugs, terrorist attacks, and even my business competitors. It’s a pretty handy tool.
The interface is, in true Google fashion, extremely simple. Enter your search term then choose from several options such as Type, How Often, Volume, and what email address you would like the alerts delivered to. Like Google’s regular search engine, searches can be refined by the use of operators like +, -, and location. Searches can be later edited, stopped, and started at any time through your Google Account.
ProMed Mail is similar to Google Alerts in that you get email alerts of things going on in the World. Unlike Google Alerts, ProMed Mail sends you emails about everything going on in the world as it pertains to emergency health concerns. It is a system for reporting outbreaks of emergency infections, diseases and toxins, and is run by the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID).
ISID is committed to improving the care of patients with infectious diseases, the training of clinicians and researchers in infectious diseases and microbiology, and the control of infectious diseases around the world. The Society recognizes that infectious diseases cross all national and regional boundaries and that effective long-term solutions require international scientific exchange and cooperation. The Society and its members are dedicated to developing partnerships and to finding solutions to the problem of infectious diseases across the globe.
Signup for ProMed Mail is fairly simple, but not necessarily obvious. Choose “Subscribe” from the navigation menu, then fill out a form with your information and check off the type of alerts you would like to receive.
If Google’s Flu Trends did steroids, drank a couple Red Bulls, and hired a graphic artist to give it a makeover, you would get HealthMap.org.
Health Map is the brain child of Clark Freifield and John Brownstein. Its mission: To inform the public and make people more aware of a pandemic threat.
HealthMap, founded in 2006, is an established global leader in utilizing online informal sources for disease outbreak monitoring and real-time surveillance of emerging public health threats. The freely available Web site ‘healthmap.org’ and mobile app ‘Outbreaks Near Me’ deliver real-time intelligence on a broad range of emerging infectious diseases for a diverse audience including libraries, local health departments, governments, and international travelers. 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. Through an automated process, updating 24/7/365, the system monitors, organizes, integrates, filters, visualizes and disseminates online information about emerging diseases in nine languages, facilitating early detection of global public health threats.
HealthMap has also released a free iPhone and Android App. The apps have received a wide range of reviews with extreme likes and dislikes. Although it would seem most of the complaints were from early versions of the app. Probably the most interesting part of the app is its location-based warnings. As you enter an area with a high infection rate, a warning pops up.