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Technology and the Swine Flu

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David Silversmith
David Silversmith

This week, news broke of a new and fatal swine flu on the Mexico-U.S. border.  Surgical masks are being distributed throughout Mexico City in an attempt to slow down transmission of this illness.

It has quickly turned into a growing outbreak and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). While science has yet to cure the common cold or the more serious flu, technology is making it possible to track the spread of an illness like the swine flu. There are several useful online resources that track health information and disease outbreaks.
One of the easiest to use tools is from HealthMap which aggregates news feeds from the WHO, Google News, ProMED, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and other sources to map out all of the disease outbreaks.  Unfortunately it looks like their servers are struggling with the load of visitors so this may not be a reliable source in the coming days and weeks. 
If you’re looking at the potential for travel then you should check out CDC’s Travel Notices. The Center for Disease Controland Prevention is a United States based organisation but it provides information on major outbreaks across the world. The CDC has several levels of notices, from minor cases to epidemics. Always check the CDC’s notices before traveling - especially to areas that may be affected by the swine flu. Keeping up with the times the CDC is twittering updates at @CDCEmergency. If you prefer you can also access the CDC data via an RSS feed. Or if you are a visual person you can even check out the CDC’s Podcasts.
The World Health Organisation itself has a web page with breaking news on major epidemics and outbreaks at Disease Outbreak News Center. They provide current and historical information on diseases and they too offer an RSS feed.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health also has a website and RSS feed but at this time there is no need for them to be urgently reporting on incidents in North America. Hopefully this will not change over time.
Some great technology to keep the world informed. If 100 million people can watch a British singer – keeping up to data with a serious illness should be up there in importance too! While there’s likely to be much concern on social networking sites about public health incidents, it’s best to go direct to the sources of news rather than spreading rumors.


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