How A Computer Algorithm Predicted West Africa’s Ebola Outbreak Before It Was Announced
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is focusing a spotlight on a unique online tool run by experts in Boston that flagged a “mystery hemorrhagic fever” in forested areas of southeastern Guinea nine days before the World Health Organization formally announced the epidemic.
HealthMap is an innovative tool that uses algorithms to scour tens of thousands of social media sites, local news, government websites, infectious-disease physicians’ social networks, and other sources to detect and track disease outbreaks. Sophisticated software filters irrelevant data, classifies the relevant information, identifies diseases and maps their locations with the help of experts.
The site is run by a group of 45 researchers, epidemiologists, and software developers at BCH. HealthMap was first introduced in 2006 with a core audience of public health specialists, but that changed as the system evolved and the public became increasingly hungry for information during the swine flu pandemic.
While public health…
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