Monday, May 7, 2012

Useful Interactive Map of Worlwide Disease Outbreaks

My news alerts have been populated, lately, with numerous stories about pertussis outbreaks in the U.S. The biggest, currently, appears to be in Washington state, with over 1,100 cases so far this year, compared to a total of 961 cases of pertussis for all of 2011. But Washington isn't the only state seeing outbreaks of pertussis. Most likely due to a combination of lower vaccine uptake rates coupled with teens and adults skipping their pertussis boosters, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, New York, New Jersey and others are all seeing outbreaks of an easily preventable disease. As these news items have cropped up, I began to see a pattern, that what started in California two years ago is making its way eastward. Whether this pattern is real or just an artifact of news reports, I'm not certain, but it did bring to mind a tool that is very helpful in examining progression of outbreaks from year to year.

I thought I had mentioned this in a previous post, but was unable to find it. The Council on Foreign Relations has devised an interactive map of infectious disease outbreaks around the world:

There are a few limitations to the map, though. First off, the available diseases to select for visualization is rather limited. Measles, mumps, rubella, polio and whooping cough (pertussis) are all available, but all other diseases are grouped together under "Other", so it might not be particularly useful for seeing outbreaks of rotavirus, as one example. Second, the data tends to lag a bit behind current numbers. Right now, it only shows about 600 cases of pertussis in Washington for 2012, despite the official number being much higher. Finally, the data only go back to 2008, making the map good for looking at recent outbreaks, but not particularly helpful for older historical information.

This is a very short post for me, but I wanted to make sure I shared this great resource with everyone. Add it to your bookmarks and take a look every now and then.

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