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Mapping disease data

Embarking on a trip?

"You might want to check HealthMap, a site that tracks disease pathogens on an international scale, first. A detailed and easy-to-use map designed for the average user to find outbreaks by country and region (although it is also used by local public health officials and clinics), HealthMap started as a disease tracking project about two years ago, but has recently started attracting attention as a top public source of disease information." Via Instapundit.

The man who established statistical mapping as an invaluable tool in medical epidemiology was also the doctor who helped to bring relief to women in childbirth.

In 1854 Dr John Snow plunged into a cholera outbreak in London, mapped the location of deaths and realized that 500 cholera deaths had occurred within 10 days around the Broad Street Pump. Officials removed the handle (so the water couldn't be pumped), and the disease faded away. To verify his idea that cholera was caused by infected water, Dr Snow expanded his study "to 300,000 individuals of both sexes, of varying ages and occupations, and from all social classes". After he confronted the London government with his findings, London began cleaning up the water supply, but it was not until the 20th century that the medical world substantiated infected water as a primary cause of cholera.

Snow was an extraordinary person. The son of a labourer-farmer, he studied Latin as a boy, became an apprentice to a surgeon-apothecary at the age of fourteen and was only eighteen when he treated miners in a cholera epidemic. After training in London he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

Snow recognized that "an efficient inhaler, which allowed the control of vapour strength, was fundamental to the safe administration of any anaesthetic agent and he went on to develop several instruments" in 1847. "One of his most important legacies to anaesthetics was his description of the five identifiable stages of the anaesthetic process. His intention was to provide doctors with the ability to interpret the patient's physiological signs and to adjust the administration of vapour accordingly." (Quotes from Oxford DNB)

A common 19th century view was that women were supposed to suffer during childbirth. Queen Victoria put paid to this notion for all time by giving birth to Prince Leopold with anaesthesia, with Dr Snow in attendance.

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