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Posted at 02:49 PM ET, 11/23/2011

Washington, D.C.: an epi-center of sickness?


Sickweather.com indicates groupings of symptom activity focused over the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. ( SickWeather.com )
Does the public health equivalent to doppler weather radar suggest you’re well-advised to skip town for Thanksgiving? It depends where you’re going.

A new website, which scans social media for place-based indicators of sickness, detects a plume of unwelcome ailments sprawled across the D.C. metro region. And many other major metropolitan areas. Called sickweather.com, the site lets you “check for the chance of sickness as easily as you can check for the chance of rain.”

Mike Rosenwald’s Maryland blog describes the Baltimore-based start-up’s concept further:

Sickweather gathers data from you (if you sign up) and from public information it scans from social networks to plot out on a map where people are sick, what’s wrong with them, etc. The big idea: If you can look on a map and see a cluster of ill people, you might want to avoid that place or be careful when there.

Check out the website and interact with it. The value of Sickweather will depend on the density of its network .

At this early strange, its usefulness is limited, simply because the resolution is coarse, and predictably, the reports are concentrated around population centers.

But as more users sign-on, you’ll be to see where people are feeling under the weather and what their symptoms are down to the neighborhood and street level. And if you hook Sickweather up to your social networks with participating friends and family, you’ll be able to check in on them. Then you’ll be able to say: ‘yeah, I really should avoid that coffee shop on Main St.’ or ‘maybe it’s a bad idea to attend Aunt Sally’s potluck’.

BBC reports it’s been dubbed “Facebook for hypochondriacs”. Sounds about right.

Additional reading: Can crowdsourcing beat the flu? (BBC)

By  |  02:49 PM ET, 11/23/2011

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