KDnuggets : News : 2009 : n09 : item33 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >


Biosurveillance / data mining company raised early alarm about swine flu

The News Tribune, LES BLUMENTHAL, WASINGTON, D.C. 04/30/09

A Washington state biosurveillance firm raised the first warning about a possible outbreak of swine flu in Mexico more than two weeks before the World Health Organization offered its initial alert about a public health emergency of international concern.

Both federal and international health officials had access to the warning from Veratect. Later e-mails calling attention to the company's subsequent report that the disease was possibly spreading in Mexico were sent to 10 officials of the Centers for Disease Control, said Robert Hart, the company's chief executive.

Based in Kirkland, Veratect uses a technique known as "data mining" to automatically search tens of thousands of Web sites daily for early signs of looming medical problems or civil unrest anywhere in the world. Anything of interest is turned over to a team of 35 analysts to determine its significance and post on the company's Web site. The company markets access to its Web site to government agencies, businesses and others and has tried unsuccessfully to sell its service to the CDC, World Health Organization and Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier this year, Hart said Veratect gave free access to its Web site to the CDC and WHO on a trial basis.

On April 6, 18 days before the WHO issued its alert, Veratect reported on its Web site a "strange" outbreak of respiratory disease in La Gloria, Mexcio, and that local residents believed the outbreak was linked to contamination from pig breeding farms nearby.

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KDnuggets : News : 2009 : n09 : item33 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >

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