New Google Earth maps of avian flu spread
(Update September 2006 -- these maps have now been replaced with a time series using new GE functionality -- check out the new link here)

Table of contents
Base maps
Additional datasets
How to best view these maps
Data descriptions and caveats

Other avian flu maps
What's next?


Download the maps

  Creative Commons License
Rights:  Contract Creative Commons.


My Google Earth maps have finally entered their second beta, after a gestation of some two months. Details and links are given below. Thanks to technical improvements, and new data support, these maps will be updated regularly from now on. The top folder gives the data when data was last updated. You can download the maps by clicking this LINK -- this is a network link, which will automatically update itself with new versions when you reload it on your computer.

The main new features up are

Declan Butler



Maps built using:


Base maps

Additional datasets (switched off by default)


How to best view these maps

The left hand pane of Google Earth is useful for switching on and off folders. To see human cases, for example, it is advisable to switch off the poultry outbreaks folder.

But with these large datasets opening the data itself will render the window and incomprehensible maze. To browse these maps, it is therefore STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you set Google Earth to view in a full window, with a navigation panel.

To do this first select "Full Screen"

Then select "Navigation Panel"

This will allow you to see a clean screen like this, while stil letting you pan & zoom.

Clicking on any event, will bring up a window summarising data on it




Data descriptions and caveats
Mapping avian flu around the globe

I used Google Earth to map over time each of the 2500 or so outbreaks of avian flu in birds that have been reported over the past two years. The maps also shows all confirmed human cases of infection with the H5N1 influenza virus in the same period. Positions are only accurate to the "district" administrative level.

Much of the historical animal data was compiled from information held by the FAO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and various government sources, and was generously provided to Nature by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases. This has been complemented by information taken directly from weekly OIE reports.

I compiled the data on human cases from World Health Organization bulletins, and scientific papers. Detailed spatial data was not yet available for all cases. These will be corrected as better data becomes available.

Mapping the FAO data posed several challenges. The biggest was that the original datasets contained no latitude and longitude data for the outbreaks, so it was impossible to map them directly. FAO uses a UN system for defining geographical units such as place names, provinces and districts that can only shared internally within UN agencies, and so it was not available. Latitude and longitude data therefore had to be calculated for every outbreak location.

The data was structured into two databases, one for animal data and one for health data. This was the imported into ArcGis, ans structured in layers based on attributes. The final maps were exported using Arc2Earth.

The map is a "beta" and although the data has been manually checked, errors, in particular in the positions of some locations cannot be excluded. The underlying animal data itself also suffers from underreporting of outbreaks, and omissions or inaccuracies in reporting. The FAO also notes with respect to its own data, "facts and figures are to the best of our knowledge accurate and up to date," and that "FAO assumes no responsibility for any error or omission in the datasets"..


Other avian flu maps

EMPRES biweekly avian flu maps
FAO Flash animation
UN World Food Programme
European Union Joint Research Centre -- disease outbreak news
European Union health directorate maps


What's next?

Now that the mapping and database infrastructure has been completed, I'll start looking more closely at improving the base data, and correcting errors in these. I'll also be looking at whether the database can be modified to allow inclusion of other data that may be of interest to the public and researchers.

Add back in the links to Connotea and PubMed etc that were in the first beta

Animated time series will also be added, as well as more additional datasets.

Some sleep...