The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking the approximate locations of cell phone users in West Africa who dial emergency call centers in an effort to predict the onset and spread of Ebola outbreaks.
“The data is just the number of calls by cell tower, but from that you can get a rough idea of the area that the calls are coming in from, and then derive census, neighborhood data from that,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told Nextgov on Thursday.
Satellites can help by offering a very high-level view of the threat. A sudden Ebola outbreak could be indicated, for instance, by an unusually crowded hospital parking lot as viewed from space, Nextgov's sister publication Defense One reported last month.
Just as satellite imagery showed Russian forces massing along the Ukrainian border, high-resolution images from low Earth orbit can offer a glimpse of where and when more sick people are seeking treatment.
My geography colleague here at SDSU, Dr. Ming Tsou is deeply into the use of social media for these kinds of public purposes., in work that is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Under a partnership between San Diego State University and the county, officials will enlist 1,000 Twitter users in San Diego County as volunteers with the goal of making emergency warnings go viral.
Influential Twitter users who have a lot of followers will be asked to re-tweet important announcements when the county Office of Emergency Services is trying to broadcast alerts or news updates. Researchers will track how successful the volunteers are in getting the word out to large numbers of people.
Tsou, who directs SDSU’s Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age, is doing research into the ways people use social media to communicate about breaking news such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, road closures and evacuation notices. His research is focused on finding out how people disseminate information in different situations and figuring out why some information goes viral while some does not.Going viral, of course, is not necessarily a good thing...