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Mapping Mosquitoes

Michael A. Johansson, PhD, ’08

Information is now everywhere, but is it reliable? Useful? How can it be organized and utilized?  

HealthMap.org has taken the approach of searching tens of thousands of online postings a day for health-related news, using an algorithm to identify the relevant disease and location. Though of varying quality, this information provides a strong indication of where humans may currently be exposed to particular diseases. Enter the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dengue Branch, targeting the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral disease in the world. The CDC has long produced maps of dengue risk for the biennial Yellow Book for travelers; a map carefully compiled using data from official reports and research activities.

While not as dynamic as the HealthMap data, it thus represents a more reliable assessment of long-term risk. The two data sources are now married in DengueMap (healthmap.org/dengue), an interactive map where anyone can rapidly identify risk for any area of the world, read related reports, and link to prevention materials. And utilize it they do, thousands of times every month. This project, implemented about a year ago, continues to thrive.

Michael A. Johansson works with the CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in San Juan, PR.

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