Viruses have changed history and are linked to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people over time. They have caused old diseases, such as Yellow Fever, Small Pox and influenza and they are also the cause of emerging diseases, including West Nile virus illness, Dengue fever and HIV/AIDS. The spatial patterns of viruses are often of key interest for control and surveillance.
Lars Skog, from the Royal Institute of Technology, took the time to explain The Russian Influenza in Sweden in 1889-90 at the second annual URISA: GIS in Public Health Conference. From the speech we learned that using data from a study of the 1889-90 Russian flu in Sweden with the application of Geographic Information System (GIS) allowed researchers to improve analyses and presentation of surveillance data. In 1890, immediately after the outbreak, all Swedish doctors were asked to provide information about the start and the peak of the epidemic, and the total number of cases in their region and to fill in a questionnaire on the number, sex and age of infected persons in the households they visited. General answers on the epidemic were received from 398 physicians and data on individual patients were available for more than 32,000 persons. These historic data were all reanalyzed with the use of GIS, in map documents and in animated video sequences, to depict the onset, the intensity and the spread of the disease over time. Having prepared GIS layers of the population (divided into parishes), estimations could be made for all the Swedish parishes on the number of infected persons for each of the 15 weeks studied.
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Melissa Lawrence, Social Marketing Administrator, VERTICES, LLC