Editor's note: The following release was distributed Feb 7 by the Wildlife Conservation Society on behalf of the PREDICT consortium.
NEW YORK (February 7, 2011)— Health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston, the University of California at Davis, EcoHealth Alliance, and other members of PREDICT have publicly launched a web-based, open-access map to help governments and health agencies track emerging infectious diseases across the world.
Announced at this week’s International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance (IMED) in Vienna, Austria, www.HealthMap.org/PREDICT delivers real-time intelligence from a number of sources to give users in more than 20 countries a comprehensive view on the current global state of infectious diseases and their effects on human and animal health.
The integration of digital and field surveillance data is a major component of the PREDICT project. PREDICT is a global early warning system created in 2009 as part of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Emerging Pandemics Threats Program. It was created to help develop global capacity to anticipate and prevent emerging infectious diseases through monitoring and identifying possible pathogenic threats at the human-animal interface.
WCS is one of five institutions implementing PREDICT, which includes UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (the consortium’s leader), EcoHealth Alliance, Global Viral Forecasting Inc., and the Smithsonian Institution. Additional partners making significant contributions to the technology side of the project include Harvard Children’s Hospital, ProMED, Yale University, and Praecipio.
“HealthMap.org uses the reach of the Internet to monitor and disseminate critical information to health officials around the world on the emergence of pathogens,” said Dr. Robert A. Cook, Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS’s Living Institutions.
“The resource will enable governments, agencies and other organizations to implement a One World One Health model by detecting health threats before they become crises as well as achieving conservation goals,” said Dr. Damien Joly, WCS’s Associate Director of Wildlife Health Monitoring and Epidemiology who lectured on the benefits of HealthMap.org to global health efforts at IMED in Vienna.
Free website, current data, comprehensive monitoring
The freely available website—HealthMap.org/PREDICT—uses the HealthMap platform to bring together a number of data sources into a unified view on the current status of infectious diseases around the world. Specifically, HealthMap.org uses an automated process to monitor more than 50,000 Web sources an hour, such as online news aggregators like Google News, eyewitness reports, expert-reviewed online discussions, and official reports from agencies such as the World Health Organization. The data are integrated with the results of emerging disease risk modeling by EcoHealth Alliance, which then helps implement and modify PREDICT field surveillance activities at interfaces where wildlife and humans come together, such as the wildlife trade and wild animal hunting, which in turn will produce data for HealthMap.org.
“HealthMap.org works around the clock to monitor, organize, filter, visualize, and disseminate online information to more than a million users worldwide in nine languages,” said Dr. John Brownstein of Harvard Medical School and co-founder of HealthMap.org.
“HealthMap.org helps us monitor outbreaks wherever they occur so that we can target more intensive surveillance to detect emerging pathogens before they spread widely among people and animals, giving us the best chance to prevent new pandemics,” said Jonna Mazet, Director of the PREDICT project and UC Davis’ One Health Institute in the School of Veterinary Medicine.
About the group:
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org.
HealthMap, founded in 2006, is an established global leader in utilizing online informal sources for disease outbreak monitoring, with over a million users a year. The freely available Web site, available at healthmap.org, delivers 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 to achieve a unified and comprehensive view of the current global state of infectious diseases and their effect on human and animal health. HealthMap relies on a variety of electronic media sources, including online news aggregators, eyewitness reports, expert-curated discussions and validated official reports. 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.
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is the leading international veterinary school in preventive medicine and wildlife health. UC Davis has an extensive research and training track record in the fields of epidemiology, surveillance, zoonotic diseases, comparative medicine, diagnostics, wildlife pathogens and conservation, food safety, disease prevention, and outbreak response. Its One Health Institute and Wildlife Health Center manage One Health programs for people and animals ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Africa’s Congo Basin and Rift Valley. Visit http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ohi/predict/index.cfm.
EcoHealth Alliance (formerly Wildlife Trust) is a non-profit international conservation organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health. It specializes in saving biodiversity in human-dominated ecosystems where ecological health is most at risk from habitat loss, species imbalance, pollution and other environmental issues. EcoHealth Alliance scientists also identify and examine the causes affecting the health of global ecosystems in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide. EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, education, training, and support from a global network of EcoHealth Alliance conservation partners. EcoHealth Alliance is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization. Please visit www.ecohealthalliance.org