Friday's Food For Thought: Mapping Zika Virus

Pinpointing the virus’ spread

By Lindsay Tilton Mitchell

Jan. 29, 2016

The spread of Zika virus, a tropical disease transmitted to people by an Aedes mosquito bite, is making headlines. According to a Vox article, the virus arrived in the Americas in 2014 and has since grown to be the largest Zika outbreak to date with more than one million people infected in Brazil alone. Cases are also reported in neighboring South American countries, Central America, and beyond. According to an article from The Economist, the virus is believed to cause birth defects—most notably microcephaly, which is associated with a small head and incomplete brain development—as well as neurological problems in adults.

HealthMap, an interactive map created by Boston Children’s Hospital, pinpoints every reported infectious disease in the world. The website and the mobile app “Outbreaks Near Me” delivers real-time intelligence from online news aggregators, eyewitness reports, official reports, and other sources to provide a comprehensive view of the current state of infectious diseases around the globe. HealthMap users can select Zika to view a visualization of reported cases of the virus. Each dot represents a reported case and is color-coded to denote the severity. Each dot also includes a link to the case’s source.

Dr. Kamran Khan, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and his team published a graphic to visualize how Zika could be spreading via infected travelers departing Brazil. The map illustrates the final destinations of international travelers leaving airports in Brazil from September 2014 to August 2015.

 

Photo Credit: Dr. Kamran Khan, St. Michael’s Hospital