Intended for healthcare professionals


Internet crawler uses unconventional information sources to track infectious disease outbreaks

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 09 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a742
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. 1London

    An automated data gathering system that crawls the internet to gather information from non-traditional sources such as online news outlets, discussion forums, and government websites is proving effective in tracking emerging infectious diseases, says a new study (PLoS Med 2008:5:e151 doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050151).

    Researchers from the Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School developed HealthMap as a freely accessible and automated system that monitors and organises information on emerging diseases in real time.

    “Web-based sources can play an important role in early event detection . . . by providing current, highly local information about outbreaks, even from areas relatively invisible to traditional global public health efforts,” they wrote.

    The existing network of traditional surveillance systems managed by health organisations and multinational agencies has wide gaps in geographical coverage and often suffers from …

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