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Scientists put interactive flu tracking at public's fingertips
Date:11/16/2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio New methods of studying avian influenza strains and visually mapping their movement around the world will help scientists more quickly learn the behavior of the pandemic H1N1 flu virus, Ohio State University researchers say.

The researchers linked many powerful computer systems together to analyze enormous amounts of genetic data collected from all publicly available isolated strains of the H5N1 virus the cause of avian flu. They then developed a new Web-based application that will allow health officials and the public visualize how the virus moved across the globe using Google Earth.

The resulting visualizations, based on results of the data analysis, represent the most comprehensive map to date of how avian flu has been transmitted among sites in Asia, Africa and Europe.

But underlying those findings is a new way of analyzing genetic data that generates more complete information about the flu's spread. The method, combined with the increasing availability of sequenced genomes of isolated flu strains, is expected to help public health officials make more knowledgeable predictions about how the H1N1 flu pandemic will evolve.

"We are taking into account more data but at the same time, we're making simpler visualizations, allowing users to choose what they want to see," said Daniel Janies, associate professor of biomedical informatics at Ohio State and senior author of the study.

"We've created an environment where people can avail themselves of flu information specific to their region of the world or their area of interest. We waded through all of the complexities so people in the public health realm who want to determine how a flu virus got from point A to point B can find that out, and we'll have better public health outcomes as a result."

The visualizations and application are available online at http://routemap.osu.edu.

The research
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Contact: Daniel Janies
daniel.janies@osumc.edu
614-292-1202
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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