iPhone app tracks swine flu, other disease outbreaks

Outbreaks Near Me app also allows users to report locations where disease is spreading

A free iPhone app called "Outbreaks Near Me" is designed to help users track and report oubreaks of swine flu and other infectious diseases.

Researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston built the application with the MIT Media Lab and with support from Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the search engine company.

The application relies on information gathered at the HealthMap Web site.

With the app, iPhone users can get information on outbreaks of a disease in their area. They also can be notified on the device or by e-mail when new outbreaks are reported nearby or when the user enters an area where outbreaks have been reported.

There is also an option to submit an outbreak report and to add photos of situations that might have led to the spreading of a disease, according to a statement from Children's Hospital.

The application is built upon HealthMap.org, which was started in 2006 to mine the Internet for news reports, official alerts, blogs and chats about infectious disease outbreaks. The site also relies on what it calls "curated" personal accounts, according to a statement.

Clark Freifeld, who is a co-founder of HealthMap, a Ph.D candidate at the MIT Media Lab and a research software developer at Children's, called the reporting process for HealthMap and now the iPhone app, "grassroots, participatory epidemiology."

HealthMap typically receives 10,000 unique visits a day, but at the peak of the swine flu outbreak last spring, visits rose to 150,000 a day.

The application gives users, for the first time, the opportunity to submit their own information about disease outbreaks, such as school closings or overcrowding at a local hospital, Freifeld said in an interview.

"We don't know exactly what we'll get," he said. A hands-on review mechanism is also being developed to reject bogus information. The hardest part of building the app, Freifeld said, was coordinating requests from the database with a user's iPhone location based on GPS data.

The other co-founder of HealthMap, John Brownstein, an assistant professor at the Children's Hospital Informatics Program, said the app should be a source of information for users that will also help them become more involved and proactive regarding public health.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags diseaseshealthiPhonee-healthiphone appsswine flu

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?