Visualizing Global Marathon 2012 – Challenge 1

Disease Alerts

Back in 2006 Gunther Eysenbach conducted a series of innovative correlation studies between infectious disease incidences and search engine queries. Correlations, and the possibility of forecasting disease outbreaks, have been confirmed in the following years. His work led to the well-known Google Flu Trends project. Infoveillance and infodemiology (terms coined by him) are now common currency, and many studies use data coming from diverse sources such as social media to analyze and predict infectious disease behavior.

HealthMap is a team of researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital that utilizes “online informal sources for disease outbreak monitoring and real-time surveillance of emerging public health threats.” They collect data from multiple sources that mention disease, including official reports, news aggregators, and eyewitnesses. They then compile and organize the data, with consistent labeling and metadata, and release it through their website and a live API. This is a great example of using web-scraping, crowdsourcing, and live data to produce a critical public resource.

Visualization plays a crucial role in making this data actionable. Your challenge is to visualize the disease alert data so that patterns and anomalies can be easily identified. You will work on archived data for this challenge, but your project could later be expanded to feed directly from the HealthMap API’s live data stream. There is a lot of information here, so it is recommended that you focus your project on one aspect of the data. To get you started, we’ve created a handful of slices that isolate different dimensions like time, disease category, and geography. The full archive of alerts from the last 3 months is also provided, in case you want to create your own slice of the data.


Get the data sets here: HealthMap Disease Alerts (8 July – 8 November, 2012) Data Set
There are several different slices of the collected data, as well as a full feed.
Source: HealthMap


You must be a student participating in the Visualizing Global Marathon to enter this challenge.

  1. Sign in to (register if you haven’t yet)
  2. Upload your project (see our FAQ for help)
  3. Click button below and choose your project

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