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Cutting-edge interactive disease surveillance maps support Combatant Commands

This image shows Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particle envelope proteins immunolabeled with rabbit HCoV-EMC/2012 primary antibody and goat anti-rabbit 10-nanometer gold particles. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease photo) This image shows Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particle envelope proteins immunolabeled with rabbit HCoV-EMC/2012 primary antibody and goat anti-rabbit 10-nanometer gold particles. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease photo)

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Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Integrated Biosurveillance | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance | Combat Support

As an organization that receives countless streams of data and information, the staff at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) knows quite a bit about the global threats posed by known and emerging infectious diseases of military relevance. Today, AFHSB’s Integrated Biosurveillance (IB) Section is taking revolutionary steps to produce even more relevant, user-driven health surveillance products that enable its customers, especially the U.S. Combatant Commands, to focus on what they need to know to provide a medically ready military force in peace and wartime.

Interactive surveillance maps created by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch show the global threats posed by endemic and emerging infectious diseases that help Combatant Commands provide a medically ready military force.Interactive surveillance maps created by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch show the global threats posed by endemic and emerging infectious diseases that help Combatant Commands provide a medically ready military force.

 

AFHSB recently released new, web-based interactive disease surveillance maps that allow Combatant Commanders to zoom to an area of interest, click on individual points, and extract exactly what they need to know about a particular disease event. The accompanying text can contain relevant links, sources, and images in their native, high resolution format. With the click of a button, an analyst can instantly upload data from his or her terminal in Washington, D.C., for a decision-maker stationed in Germany, with information that is specifically tailored for that organization’s needs.

As part of the Defense Health Agency’s role as a combat support agency, “it is vital for AFHSB to provide timely health surveillance information to the Combatant Commands with the appropriate flexibility and agility required to support Force Health Protection decisions,” said Mr. Juan Ubiera, chief of the IB section. “These dynamic products provide Department of Defense leaders with a large amount of information in a manner that supports both rapid operational decisions and a deeper understanding of what's going on.”

AFHSB’s latest product in this gallery is The Avian Influenza Epidemic. This product leverages data from near real-time disease reporting systems along with geocoding capabilities to present an emerging picture of the avian influenza A (AI) virus subtypes currently affecting avian populations globally. An overlay of the global flight paths of the wild birds that carry AI viruses enables the viewer to connect outbreaks of particular AI subtypes to the migratory routes that may have facilitated their introduction. This product also depicts human cases of infection with novel and variant influenza A viruses, conveying Defense Department relevance of these occurrences through an in-house designed infographic, all within a dynamic environment.

This new release joins other products in the IB interactive gallery such as The MERS-CoV Epidemic, an interactive surveillance product that guides the user through the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) epidemic in a new and captivating format. Users will also find surveillance products on the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the emergence of the Chikungunya virus in the Americas.

To create these visualizations, AFHSB is implementing leading-edge, commercial-off-the-shelf tools designed by Esri, a geospatial service provider. Our analysts are able to standardize and edit data directly from their desktops; with a few keystrokes, the data are sent to the cloud, instantly updating our products with the latest information. This represents a major leap forward from AFHSB’s current email-based distribution system.

“This type of product and [the] attractive and easy to read visuals are very useful for the education of leadership and others in our division on the importance of avian influenza,” Dr. Jennifer Steele, the Infectious Disease Subject Matter Expert for U.S. European Command after previewing The Avian Influenza Epidemic product. “The maps and graphics help explain why [avian influenza] elsewhere in the world and in other species is important from a human health and operational perspective.” 

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