New software designed to help better track Ebola outbreaks

Researchers at the University of Washington created the software

(KING) – A joint program between the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and Public Health Seattle and King County is preparing to deploy software to better track disease outbreaks, including Ebola.

The “Outbreak Investigator” software is financed through a grant by the National Library of Medicine and is designed to keep tabs on patterns or clusters of disease in order to direct resources to hot spots faster.

Health departments have always put pins in maps during outbreaks of communicable disease, but Neil Abernethy, Ph.D. who works in both the U.W.’s School of Public Health and the School of Medicine, says that doesn’t work as quickly as the software to identify areas in terms of geography and severity.

“With each additional outbreak, we show more about the dynamics of the disease and how to control it,” said Abernethy, holding a cell phone equipped with Outbreak Investigator. “We can enable this on tablets. People can go out into the field, and collect data and see those patterns as outbreaks unfolds.”

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