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Scientists Put Interactive Flu Tracking at Public’s Fingertips

OSU News (11/12/09) Caldwell, Emily

Ohio State University (OSU) researchers have combined several computer systems to analyze massive amounts of genetic data collected from publicly available isolated strains of the H5N1 virus, the cause of the avian flu.  The researchers then developed a Web-based application using Google Earth that enables health officials and the public to visualize how the virus moved around the world.  The researchers say the visualizations are the most comprehensive map of how the avian flu has been transmitted among sites in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  To create the visualizations, the researchers developed a new method for analyzing genetic data that generates more complete information about the flu’s spread.  The method, combined with the growing availability of sequenced genomes of isolated flu strains, is expected to help public health officials make better-informed predictions about how the H1N1 flu will evolve.  “We are taking into account more data but at the same time, we’re making simpler visualizations, allowing users to choose what they want to see,” says OSU professor Daniel Janies.  “We waded through all of the complexities so people in the public health realm who want to determine how a flu virus got from point A to point B can find that out, and we’ll have better public health outcomes as a result.”


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