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Sick mobile app tracks H1N1, other outbreaks near you

Outbreaks Around Me screen shotWant to know what illnesses are flourishing nearby without getting sick yourself? The builders of HealthMap, an online service that collects and maps various reports of infectious diseases such as the H1N1 swine flu, have launched a similarly ill application for the iPhone.

Outbreaks Near Me, the none-too-jocundly named app, was developed by researchers at the Children's Hospital Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, and can send notifications for everything from lumpy skin disease to porcine circovirus in your vicinity.

"As people are equipped with more knowledge and awareness of infectious disease, the hope is that they will become more involved and proactive about public health," John Brownstein, a HealthMap co-founder and assistant professor in the Children's Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP), said in a prepared statement.

Users can set a notification on their phones to be alerted if a new outbreak near them is reported. They can also submit reports, photos and details that the group will verify before entering into the tracking system. 

"This is grassroots, participatory epidemiology," Clark Freifeld, a doctoral researcher and software developer at CHIP, said in a prepared statement. "In enabling participation in surveillance, we also expect to increase global coverage and identify outbreaks earlier."

Image of outbreak report screen courtesy of HealthMap

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