Visit our special surveillance page for the World Cup!
As soccer/football fans turn their attention to South Africa, HealthMap is watching for signs of outbreaks besides World Cup Fever. Teams and fans will be travelling great distances, and their local germs may be hitching a ride. This year's measles outbreak in British Colombia has been attributed to visitors to the Vancouver Olympics. Previous mass gatherings have seen more serious dispersion of disease. For example, Saudi Arabia saw an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis among pilgrims to the Hajj in 2000.
To provide early warning of highly contagious or dangerous disease threats, BioDiaspora and HealthMap have teamed up to increase infectious disease surveillance of the most common countries of origin for travelers to South Africa in June. BioDiaspora studies airline passenger travel to predict patterns of emerging infectious diseases. They have analyzed airline traffic into South Africa and determined the most common countries of origin for travelers.
HealthMap has created additional surveillance feeds in English and Arabic for the top 30 cities of origins. Our normal surveillance feeds utilize an automated text-processing system, which evaluates news stories for disease and location of outbreaks. We have broadened our search terms to improve our ability to identify even vague reports of illness. Our curation team is evaluating the alerts as they come in before allowing them to go to the map. If you are interested in the details of the system, please check out our article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal where we describe our earlier surveillance efforts for the Vancouver Olympics.
Travelers can also encounter new diseases while they travel. South Africa is in the midst of a Rift Valley Fever outbreak. This disease is carried by mosquitoes and generally affects livestock, though humans can be infected as well. At least 166 people have been infected (mostly individuals with direct contact with livestock) and 15 have died. In addition to our regular surveillance efforts, ARGUS has shared their dataset of reports on the outbreak.
Visit http://healthmap.org/fifa/ to see disease alerts for the areas around the top 30 cities, alerts for the 32 teams playing at the World Cup, and Rift Valley Fever alerts in South Africa (including data contributed by ARGUS).
Enjoy the World Cup!!