SITE VISIT: Tracking Killer Microbes

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Science  25 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5423, pp. 2051
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5423.2051d

What should you do if you think you have cholera? What's the latest on the recent outbreak of deadly Marburg virus in the Congo? The answer to these and a slew of other questions pertaining to infectious diseases can be found at the World Health Organization's (WHO's) Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response Web site.

This information-rich site aims to inform health experts and the public about diseases such as leishmaniasis, AIDS, yellow fever, and hepatitis. The main page greets surfers with links to health advice for international travelers, fact sheets on specific diseases, and the WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Record, a summary of disease reports issued every Friday. Most useful to researchers, perhaps, are the outbreak updates. For example, since April WHO has posted eight updates on a Marburg resurgence in the Congo that as of late May was suspected of sickening 72 people and had been confirmed as causing five deaths.

Another interesting section is HealthMap, a joint United Nations Children's Fund and WHO program that's teaching public health officials in developing countries how to use Geographic Information Systems to monitor diseases and manage prevention programs. You can click to produce maps from regional to village level—so far, for guinea worm infections and treatments in 17 African countries.

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