WCS, Harvard Medical School, and PREDICT Unveil HealthMap.org/predict for Global Tracking of Disease


Open-access website uses technology to merge wildlife and human health surveillance

NEW YORK (February 9, 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, 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 identification of possible pathogenic threats at the animal-human 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.

WCS conducts research on the international illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife parts and the potential role this trade may play in the spread of infectious diseases. This global trade is also a major challenge to wildlife conservation. It is estimated that billions of plants, wild animals, and wildlife products are legally or illegally traded for food, the pet trade, and other uses every year, including more than 1 billion kilograms of animal meat for local and regional trade and consumption in Central Africa alone.

“HealthMap.org is a tremendous innovation in web-based tools that monitors and disseminates critical information on the emergence of pathogens to health officials around the world.  HealthMap.org enables the global health community and society at large to be better prepared for when the next disease emerges,”  said Dr. Robert A. Cook, Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS’s Living Institutions.

“This innovative resource enables governments and allied organizations worldwide to implement a more holistic approach to detecting emerging diseases.  This integrative One World-One Health ™  approach is critical to our ability to combat new disease pathogens as they arise,”  said Dr. Damien Joly, WCS’s Associate Director of Wildlife Health Monitoring and Epidemiology who lectured on the benefits of HealthMap.org at IMED in Vienna.

The freely available website—available at 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.



The authors’ views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the United States Government.

Contact:
Stephen Sautner (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
John Delaney (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)






The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide.  We do so 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.

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.

About EcoHealth Alliance
Building on 40 years of innovative science, 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
 

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation 

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