HealthMap is a freely accessible, automated electronic information system for monitoring, organizing, and visualizing reports of global disease outbreaks according to geography, time, and infectious disease agent.

The website Healthmap makes use of advanced mathematical formulas and algorithms to analyze thousands of websites, health reports, blogs and social media updates to find relevant content. It then makes use of this Big Data to find specific content that can predict any new worldwide outbreak of a disease.

The software calculates and categorizes the diseases by type and geography, it sorts out possible duplicates, as patients can occur several times in the statistics. Finally, the results are visualized in real time on a map with warnings for where a disease is more severe and where it might spread in the near future.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (blue) budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (yellow-green). Credit: NIAID

The researchers behind the website noticed very early that there was something big happening in West Africa. Actually, the evidence suggested a widespread outbreak of Ebola a whole nine days before WHO classified it as such.

Making use of Big data is rapidly expanding and it is a resource that could prove valuable in many areas, for private companies, institutions and by government initiatives. The definition of Big data as its name foretells, immense amounts of data, data sets so large and complex that are becoming difficult to process using traditional data processing applications.

The fact that the data sets are so large implies depth of potential information retrievable for analysis. Separating smaller sets with the same total amount of data allows for correlations to perhaps predict business trends, combat crime or as for Healtmap – predict disease.

Click here to view a presentation of Healthmap.