By Jared Newman | Monday, April 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Whether you’re nervous about a possible pandemic or just want to stay informed, some Google Maps mashups are making it easy to track the worldwide spread of swine influenza.
My favorite, put together by Pittsburgh biomedical researcher Henry Niman, pinpoints the location of every case around the world, with colored markers denoting whether swine flu was suspected, confirmed or tested negative. Clicking on a marker brings up a short description of the case and the date of infection. When the marker has no dot in the center, it means the victim has died.
It’s a pretty easy way to get frightened.
Other maps are out there as well. The 2009 Swine Flu Outbreak Map offers a similar level of information but as a collaborative document, lending itself to more frequent updates. Meanwhile, the Guardian has posted a database of cases, encouraging readers to create their own mash-ups and visualizations.
When the world was dealing with H5N1 avian flu a few years back, Google Earth was the tool of choice, with Nature reporter Declan Butler putting together one notable example. In 2007, Google introduced My Maps, allowing for easier map creation through simple pointing and clicking. This has no doubt caused the migration of flu tracking from Google Earth to Google Maps. And it’s happening quickly, just days after swine flu hit the public spotlight.
Of course, if you’d prefer not to worry, the Internet is also full of perspective.