Tracking ebola: 8 internet resources to help keep abreast of the epidemic


Ebola is fast becoming Africa’s (and indeed, the world’s) biggest contemporary health problem. The latest outbreak, originating in Guinea, is now the largest in recorded history with most of West Africa in the midst of the suffering. Since February, there have been over 1 200 reported cases and around 700 reported deaths, with this number continuing to climb as the epidemic balloons.

Recently two American nationals were diagnosed with ebola disease, which has sparked fears of the virus piggybacking on international aircraft and spreading across the world. This may sound incredibly unlikely, but is theoretically possible.

Although the internet cannot cure the afflicted, it can do a lot to educate those not yet affected both in Africa and abroad. Below is a list of internet resources to educate, document and provide warnings around one of planet Earth’s deadliest viruses.

1. World Health Organisation

The ubiquitous WHO is at the forefront of most of the world’s health issues, so it should be at the forefront of providing information around ebola. Its dedicated portal details the current situation, global initiatives in action and recently published press releases from experts and leaders. The African subsite also provides specific case details and number of documented victims.

2. Ebola Facts

The Ebola Facts website is a simple, yet informative portal documenting the basic facts, symptoms, precautions one should take and emergency contacts. It’s no nonsense UX provides clear and concise information, without frills. Additionally, the site also has a companion Twitter account.

Twitter is an effective tool for staying current with breaking and important news. This particular account tweets must-know information regarding the ebola outbreak, including contact numbers, government alerts and breaking updates. A simple Twitter hashtag search will also pull up all tweets mentioning the disease.

3. ScienceDaily

For more in-depth articles documenting scientific and medical breakthroughs in ebola research, Science Daily’s ebola portal rounds up some of the internet’s most extensive research papers. It’s not the most current news, but it does document the virus and resultant disease’s devastating past and present.

4. Reddit

An overlooked source for many, Reddit (although the community is often seen as exclusive) does have its merits in global situations such as the ebola outbreak. A simple search pulls up masses of links documenting the current and previous epidemics.

Additional information can be found by visiting the dedicated subreddit.

5. HealthMap

As a realtime tracker (or as close to realtime as possible), HealthMap keeps abreast of the prevalence of major diseases around the world. It’s not exactly ebola specific, which perhaps makes this tool more important in general, but it can be narrowed down to display only incidents of ebola.

The user is provided with a map — akin to Bing or Google Maps — fully navigable and zoomable. Individual cases of each disease can be clicked on, providing the link to the case and location it was recorded.

6. Wikipedia’s news portal

Wikipedia is a surprisingly great resource when it comes to documenting breaking news. Although it’s community edited, and takes a ton of flack for this very fact, it is also its greatest strength.

Its dedicated West Africa Ebola outbreak page provides users with timelines, tables and graphs detailing the spread of the virus.

7. Government websites and health portals

Governments are scrambling to contain the spread of the disease and regularly release information publicly informing citizens of the latest news. Liberia has a spool of information on its national health website, with a plethora of press releases available for perusal at the bottom of the page.

Other African countries, including Nigeria and Sierra Leone, also publish regular updates on their respective government sites.

8. Hashtagr

An alternative source that scours social media for results, Hashtaggr’s hashtag search can pull results from Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Vine. Often social media is the fastest way to garner updates on a specific issue, especially personal accounts and first-hand information. Ebola, although not quite a worldwide epidemic as yet, could very well become a massive problem for all nations in the coming months. We hope this won’t be the case, but if such an issue does arise, social media will help track and avoid cases.

Image: NIAID via Flickr

Andy Walker, former editor


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