Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu: Veratect, a Seattle-based biosurveillance startup was the first to alert the world of pandemic

“In retrospect, there were earlier signs that something was going on, but to be honest, we didn’t pick up on those as quickly or as astutely as we might have. If we go back and look now, we see reports of respiratory illness in Mexico that predated the public awareness of what was going on,” Madoff said. “It’s a very hard signal-to-noise problem. There is a lot of noise.” -

SHOOT: The vital signals are being lost in the cacophany of noise.
clipped from

Veratect, a Seattle-based biosurveillance startup, claims they alerted the Centers for Disease Control to the situation in Mexico — where health officials suspect swine flu has killed up to 149 people — on April 16, before even the Mexican health authorities declared a problem.

How’d they get ahead of the outbreak? By monitoring and analyzing the flow of social media traffic along with more official reports, the company’s CEO said.

“We started picking up the early indicators of social disruption, whether it shows up on blogs or Twitter,” said Bob Hart, the CEO of Veratect. “We can pick up the first indicators of behavioral changes.”

“We had many events that we were tracking, and it wasn’t until mid- to late-April that we saw [swine flu] becoming a big deal,” said John Brownstein, founder of HealthMap. “It’s really hard to predict which situation is going to be the one that takes off.”

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