Concerned citizens and medical professionals alike need detailed, timely information about the spread of H1N1 swine flu to safeguard their communities and families. The CDC and WHO should be releasing more detailed and timely information about the spread of swine flu than is currently available to the public. Moreover, both organizations are releasing information with decreasing frequency, despite the increasing spread of the virus.
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Summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere share the explosive growth of H1N1 swine flu. The potential for the novel H1N1 virus to combine with other strains during the northern hemispheres upcoming flu season, along with the World Health Organizations elevation of swine flu to pandemic status, underscore the growing threat to public health.
It is likely that the CDC and WHO have more detailed and timely information than they are releasing to the general public. Moreover, both organizations are releasing information with decreasing frequency, despite the increasing spread of the virus. Clear and complete access to information enables medical professionals, local agencies and citizens to make fact-driven health decisions.
Concerned citizens and medical professionals alike need detailed, timely flu information to safeguard our communities and families. We the undersigned call on the CDC and the WHO to take the following steps to provide the level of flu information necessary for us to safeguard our communities and families:
- Expand and increase community surveillance of the spread of pandemic flu. The current focus on airport screening ignores community spread within a countrys borders.
- Adopt the Controlled Crowd-Sourcing model of information gathering. This is a proven method of expanding community surveillance. Solicit user contributed reporting and filter it through content area experts. This will yield more complete, reliable information than either the public or experts can collect independently.
- Release geographically specific flu data. Users should be able to pinpoint each case as specifically as possible without violating the privacy of flu patients.
- Publish flu data in machine-readable formats. Currently flu reports are available only as maps and graphics. Allow users to download data in common formats such as RSS, KML, XML and CSV for use in systems of their choice.
- Formally adopt the best available data visualization systems. Use simple maps and charts to make flu information easy for non-experts to access and understand.
- Expand and increase sequencing of the flus genes. H1N1 will evolve more rapidly in upcoming weeks. Health officials must aggressively complete sequencing of the virus genes,and rapidly release the results in a number of machine-readable formats. Medical professionals need this information to effectively monitor and address an evolving threat.
Together, we can do this. In partnership with leading bioresearch firm Recombinomics, Rhiza Labs has created FluTracker.www.rhiza.imagebox.com, the worlds most accurate and comprehensive database of flu cases across the world. Rhiza Labs process of Controlled Crowd Sourcing enables FluTracker users to submit cases of swine flu from the media, official reports and their own observations. Recombinomics team of experts then filters these reports for accuracy. As well as accurate, FluTrackers figures are many days ahead of the CDCs reporting. Through Controlled Crowd Sourcing, FluTracker has become the worlds most accurate and comprehensive database of flu cases across the world.
Since the beginning of the H1N1 pandemic in April, FluTracker has logged more than 80,000 confirmed and probable cases of swine flu across the globe. FluTracker allows users to pinpoint the location of each case, often right down to the hospital or school where it was identified. In total, FluTracker has logged 30,000 cases of swine flu in the United States. In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)s public count is just over 27,000 cases in the U.S., with detailed information limited to the state level. To a citizen, business, or government official in Texas or Ontario, knowing the number of cases state- or province-wide is of little use. Knowing the number of cases in nearby neighborhoods, however, allows for the kind of informed response that both prevents panic and stems the spread of disease.
Scores of professionals at Fortune 500 companies, major hospital systems and government agencies around the world indicate they use FluTracker because it is more timely and more accurate than CDC or WHO data. Yet, they are forced to use the best resource available informally and have written to FluTracker expressing frustration that their agencies do not endorse their use of the most reliable and timely data available to them.
We invite world health officials to adopt Rhizas Controlled Crowd-Sourcing method to compile accurate and complete information. We call upon world health officials to provide timely, detailed, actionable flu information by adopting the steps outlined above. By using these proven methods, the CDC, WHO, and other agencies can empower us to safeguard our communities.