Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Disease surveillance is crucial in our interconnected world

In todays increasingly interconnected world, the threats posed by disease and illness are growing. Someone can get on a plane in Africa or Asia, and carry a potentially deadly disease halfway across the world. This has happened before with MDR-TB (multi drug resistant tuberculosis). There was a case when a young man got on a plane with MDR-TB and traveled from the US to Europe, unaware that he was carrying this deadly illness, and putting hundreds of people at risk.

The interconnectedness of the world today is one of the key reasons why disease and outbreak surveillance is so important. Organizations and institutions throughout the world work daily to keep track of various disease outbreaks and report these outbreaks to the community. By doing this, people can be aware of health threats in their area and take the proper precautions. A great example of this is an outbreak of salmonella tied to a specific brand of spinach. This information is collected by healthcare workers and communicated to the public. This type of quick communication of important information saves lives. But what about communicating this information beyond just your own community? In today’s world, people are coming and going from places all around the world on a daily basis. We are past the era when you can simply report a disease outbreak to your local community, a disease outbreak can potentially have a global impact.

There are many great sources out their for global disease surveillance, and many sources which can provide travelers, humanitarian workers, and others with up to date information on disease outbreaks throughout the world. One of these sources is HealthMap, a web based contagious virus map which gathers information from leading sources of global health surveillance around the world and puts it in one easily accessible location. Using HealthMap, you can search the world for disease outbreaks and local health information. When you first log into HealthMap, you will see a map of the world covered in pins, and each of these pins is a health alert or threat. You can click on each pin and see what different alerts show up for a particular part of the world.

These types of disease surveillance applications are growing in popularity and demand. It is a great resource for travelers, and humanitarian workers alike who travel to remote parts of the world and want to be able to see what the current health situation looks like. As the world continues to grow and the population continues to rise, the risk of diseases will continue to grow. Climate change is changing the landscape and causing certain types of illness and disease to pop up in parts of the world where they never before existed. All of these reasons prove the need for more localized information on these global challenges. We are past the time of thinking that what happens on the other side of the world does not affect us, because it does affect us all!