With the recent ebola virus outbreaks in Western Africa, the world seems to be on an even higher alert than usual. At least every year there is some sort of pandemic scare across the globe: avian flu, H1N1, SARS, West Nile virus, etc. Those viruses have definitely created problems and caused a lot of deaths, but public health officials seem to be approaching this most recent outbreak with far more caution and it definitely has the rest of the world rattled.
There is currently no vaccine, effective treatment, or cure for the ebola virus and it can spread rapidly when undetected. The only thing preventing such a quick spread is that the virus is not contagious through the air; it can only be transferred through bodily fluids. Yet doctors, nurses, humanitarian workers, aides, and public health reporters are still becoming infected at rapid rates. If you are concerned with the recent ebola outbreak but feel like you can’t get an accurate account of what’s going on, there are websites that you can view that specialize in disease and virus surveillance in real time. Resources like Healthmap, an interactive online tool that updates disease occurrence, can give hourly updates on the situations central to outbreaks. It is updated by a team of health researchers, epidemiologists, field supervisors, and doctors who compile statistics and associated reports from hundreds of sources. Even on-the-ground interviews with public health officials are taken into account when publishing statistics onto Healthmap.
With disease mapping websites you can feel more informed about the many outbreak situations going on in the world right now. You can also find information on food borne illnesses due to food contamination, water boiling notices, pine beetle infestations, animal sicknesses, and any other public health issues that could affect you.
Websites such as Healthmap are incredibly useful for travel. If you are about to enter a country or region that you are unfamiliar with, Healthmap can be used to track local occurrences of diseases and viruses by their specific locations. With this information you can avoid certain places if you happen to be more susceptible to illness or if you are traveling with children. You can also use such information for school assignments, work reports, and public reporting if you happen to work at a public health department yourself. The compilation of information that is reported on Healthmap and similar websites is also used for statistical analysis and future projections. Aside from the interactive map, you can view these reports online as well as download the mobile application that sends alerts if an outbreak is occurring in your area.
We are all concerned with the recent ebola outbreak, and the world seems to be watching while holding their breath. Projections on treatments and immunizations at this point are at least one year away, so all we can do is protect ourselves and our loved ones with precaution. If you like to receive hourly updates on the situation in West Africa, Healthmap is the perfect resource.