A new iPhone application, created by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, enables users to track and report outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as H1N1 (swine flu), on the ground in real time.
The application, “Outbreaks Near Me,” builds upon HealthMap, an online resource that collects, filters, maps, and disseminates information about emerging infectious diseases. It provides a contextualized view of a user’s specific location – pinpointing outbreaks that have been reported in the vicinity of the user and offering the opportunity to search for additional outbreak information by location or disease.
Additional functionality of Outbreaks Near Me is the ability to set alerts that will notify a user on their device or by e-mail when new outbreaks are reported in their proximity, or if a user enters a new area of activity.
The new application also features an option for users to submit an outbreak report. This will enable individuals in cities and countries around the world to interact with the HealthMap team and participate in the public health surveillance process.
Users may take photos – of situations and scenarios of, and/or leading to, disease – with their iPhone and submit them to the HealthMap system for review and eventual posting as an alert on the worldwide map.
HealthMap was founded in 2006 and mines the Internet – searching disparate data sources such as news reports, curated personal accounts, official alerts, blogs and chat rooms – to track and map infectious disease outbreaks.
Outbreaks Near Me was developed with support from Google.org and is available at no cost for download in the iTunes App Store. More information on Outbreaks Near Me is at: http://healthmap.org/iphone.php