Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

August 30, 2006

More on flu data access scheme

Filed under: avian influenza,Neglected diseases,Open data,Standards — admin @ 7:33 pm

Nature has an Editorial in this week’s edition — ‘Boosting access to disease data’ — on the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) — see previous post. It also has a short news story — ‘Plan to pool bird-flu data takes off.’

Some excerpts from the Editorial:

July 28, 2006

International community driving blindfolded in Indonesia flu battle

Filed under: avian influenza,Neglected diseases — admin @ 7:17 pm

Indonesia is the world’s current hotspot of avian flu, with the concomitant risk of emergence of a pandemic flu strain. Despite this risk, almost no avian flu poultry isolates have gone from Indonesia to the joint FAO/OIE network of national and international reference laboratories since summer 2005, I reveal in a short article tonight.

Some excerpts from the article:


July 20, 2006

WHO’s in charge?

Filed under: avian influenza,Neglected diseases — admin @ 9:42 pm

That’s the title of an editorial in this week’s Nature looking at the shift in balance of governance in global health away from the World Health Organization, prompted by the plethora of new actors, including the G8 (see the Saint Petersburg communiqué on infectious diseases) the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Some excerpts

April 16, 2006

Easter avian flu map update

Map update

This weekend’s update adds a minor change to make it easier to see the latest human cases and animal outbreaks. The initial screen will by default only show — in yellow — those events that have occured since the last map update (see screenshots below). Download the new maps directly to Google Earth by clicking here. For a more detailed explanation of the new maps, click here.

March 24, 2006

Mapping avian flu in almost real-time using Google Earth

Filed under: avian influenza,GIS,Google Earth,Neglected diseases,Open data — admin @ 11:53 pm

UPDATE — SEPT 2006; the links below are to the old maps; to see the new time-enabled versions, click HERE — UPDATE

New Google Earth maps of avian flu spread

This is the new beta of an operational service designed to provide Google Earth maps of avian flu spread on a weekly basis for the first time. As well as mapping human cases and poultry outbreaks, the maps also provide additional data on each event, and additional datasets, such as poultry densities worldwide, to let you explore avian flu.

The fact that the maps can now be regularly updated has been made possible largely through technical improvements in the initial beta map computing infrastructure , and new volunteer support in data management.

February 22, 2006

Malaria message in a bottle

Filed under: Neglected diseases — admin @ 10:44 pm

I came across an intriguing post on Boing Boing tonight. It reads:

“Little magazines that come stuck to pop bottles
A marketing student’s project to produce little magazines that are shipped under the removable label of a pop bottle is going into commercial production. The idea is to bypass traditional distribution systems and economics, and piggyback on the far-more-sophisticated soft drink distribution infrastructure.”

The coincidence is that when I attended the UN Millennium Project’s Nobel Forum meeting in Stockholm at the end of last month, I discussed the problems in getting information on malaria and other diseases out to remote villages in Africa with Kenya’s health minister, Charity Kaluki Ngilu. I mentioned that even in the most remote areas of Africa one could almost always find soft drinks, and suggested that perhaps she should think about piggybacking health programmes on top of such distribution infrastructures. I haven’t thought about this in detail, but it seems like an idea worth pursuing.

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