NOT for Hypochondriacs

An interesting site, Who is sick, collects data from folks who volunteer the symptoms of their sickness. It then displays this information, in a clear, graphic way, which conveys a few of the key symptoms by use of a color-coded pie chart. Seems like a site that has the potential, if it catches on, of being on the very leading edge of public health threat detection. It is exactly the kind of a decentralized, open source effort that John Robb over at Global Guerillas has been talking about as a paradigm for fighting the global guerilla. Of course, Who is Sick is fighting illness, but it could also be fighting a bio-terror attack, too.

Hat Tip: Bugs N Gas Gal

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In complete contrast to some of the syndromic surveillance monitoring programs, the database itself is fairly open to inspection. This will lead, I should speculate, that Bush will want to close it down in the event that it actually starts to detect something. After all, we have giving him the power to do just that, as I have noted before. And his free speech credentials don’t seem very strong, especially when dealing with public health issues.

In any case, one thing that interests me is to what extent will this site contribute to the so-called “Bill Clinton effect:”

Livingston, NJ -When news of former President Bill Clinton’s experience with chest pains and his impending cardiac bypass surgery hit the streets, hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers in the Northeast reportedly had an increase in cardiac patients. Referred to as “the Bill Clinton Effect,” the talked-about increase in cardiac patients seeking care has now been substantiated by Emergency Medical Associates’ (EMA) bio-surveillance system.

Reports of Clinton’s health woes were first reported on September 3rd, with newspaper accounts appearing nationally in September 4th editions. On September 6th, EMA’s bio-surveillance noted an 11% increase in emergency department visits with patients complaining of chest pain (over the historical average for that date), followed by a 76% increase in chest pain visits on September 7th, and a 53% increase in chest pain visits on September 8th.

My suspicion is that “Who is Sick” will, if it ever gets popular, contribute to events like the “Bill Clinton effect.” However, that’s not necessarily all bad: the sooner that happens, the sooner some bright person somewhere will begin to devise a method for measuring the Bill Clinton effect, and thereby lift some of the ‘Fog of Sickness’ to paraphrase Clausewitz.

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NOT for Hypochondriacs

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