Google Flu Trends, a Web service provided by Google.org, has been updating itself with data and news stories about the swine flu pandemic while social-networking tools such as Twitter have been blazing with members’ posts about the possible spread of the disease.
The Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA, has tips on what you can do to stay healthy. As of April 27, swine flu has killed 103 people in Mexico and spread to the United States, Europe and possibly other locations around the world.
The flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people per year, according to the World Health Organization, although larger outbreaks such as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic have killed millions.
This particular pandemic, however, is the first to manifest itself during a Web 2.0 era in which Twitter, Facebook and other social-networking tools have combined with Google and other search engines to create a “social Web” capable of providing up-to-the-minute information.
View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map
Some people have already taken matters into their own hands and started using Google’s collaborative tools to trace out the infection on Google Maps, such as the one above, with color-coded pins representing both suspected and confirmed cases of the swine flu. Pins that lack black dots in the center represent deaths.
Despite all the recent Twitter-enthusiasm about this platform’s unique power to alert millions of people in decentralized and previously unavailable ways, there are quite a few reasons to be concerned about Twitter’s role in facilitating an unnecessary global panic about swine flu, says NetEffect.
Above is a Google map of emergency staging areas in Portland. Each marker represents an area designated by Neighborhood Emergency Team. NET is a relatively safe place to go after a catastrophic event such as an earthquake.