Mapping infectious disease in real time

Imagine how useful it would be if you could look at a world map and know the exact risk of catching an infectious disease in a country you were planning to visit – and see it update in real time. Consider the potential value of a population’s mobile phone use patterns to forecast how communities will behave following a large-scale disaster.

These are the sorts of opportunities that Simon Hay thinks about as he works to expand the possibilities of infectious disease mapping with his research team at SEEG – the Spatial Ecology and Epidemiology Group.

Hay is a Professor of Epidemiology at Oxford University, where much of his recent work focuses on accurately defining human populations at risk for infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. He investigates the spatial and temporal patterns of these diseases in order to improve the evidence base of disease control and intervention strategies – and then he works to convince global bodies such as the World Health Organization to adopt his findings.

Hay was in Seattle this week and stopped by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to speak to a standing-room-only crowd about mapping the global distribution of infectious disease. He argued that in the age of Google, Facebook, and Twitter – and their potential to provide “crowd-sourced” data – there is enormous opportunity to develop real-time spatial disease maps.


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