Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Swine Flu Maps

Search Engine Land has links to some more maps of the porcine influenza. You know how google has a flu map for the US based on web search activity? Well, they've added an experimental flu map for Mexico, based on the same principles.



A few bits seem to be missing in this map of Mexico, but you can make out some trends: Oaxaca, Morelos, the Distrito Federal, and Quintana Roo (the best-named Mexican state) are showing the most "flu activity," as per Google's algorithms. One wonders, though, if their method holds up when there's so much media attention on the flu: couldn't all the news stories influence rates of Google searches?

Meanwhile, Tech Crunch looks at searches for "swine flu" across the 50 states. It's not as precise as Google Flu. As Tech Crunch notes, "this method is less likely to be predictive of the actual spread of the disease because it just measures raw searches." So think if it as one interesting data point, and nothing to hang your epidemiological hat on; and what that one data point shows is that the top ten states for swine flu searches are: Texas, Indiana, New York, Vermont, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, and California. Again, this goes into the "for what it's worth category;" but it's interesting that several of those states have already had reported or suspected cases. That's probably just a reflection of media attention on reported cases, but if, say, Vermont and New Mexico pop up next in CDC reports, this map will have been prescient.

HealthMap is tracking swine flu by posting news reports and even some anecdotal reports from around the world.



The redder the marker, the more serious the news: "Swine Flu: Zambia Takes Steps" is a light yellow, "Fort Worth Schools Close for Swine Flu" is a rather more ominous crimson. (HealthMap also follows news of outbreaks of all sorts.)

Another map shows reported cases as well as the travel paths of infected individuals, according to news reports. And this heat map, at UMapper, gives a good picture of areas where the virus is currently spreading, with higher concentrations in white, shading towards purple at the peripheries.



Of course, if you like your swine flu maps to have the imprimatur of big media officialdom, you can check out the New York Times' characteristically high-quality maps of the outbreak in both the States and throughout the world.



And the BBC's map has a slider that lets you see the spread of the disease in pseudo-animation. Meanwhile, remember that google map of swine flu I posted a couple of days ago? Turns out it was put together by Dr. Henry Niman, an expert on viruses at the University of Pittsburgh. So that's good! Niman talks about his map in a video interview here.

Well, I guess I've gone and contributed, in my tiny way, to the media frenzy over swine flu. But I couldn't help it - this thing is just so eminently mappable.

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