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iPhone app tracks swine flu outbreaks

Hypochondriacs, beware! The Outbreaks Near Me app may just scare you silly. On the other hand, it might just help you steer clear of H1N1 and other infectious diseases.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
Outbreaks Near Me shows infectious-disease reports for your area.

I'm writing this from under the covers. I mean, I know swine flu is going to get us all eventually, but I didn't know there were reported cases just 35 miles from where I live. Thank you, Outbreaks Near Me!

OK, I don't mean to make light of a very serious health issue, but this app kinda gives me the heebie-jeebies.

In a nutshell, Outbreaks Near Me lets you track--and even report--outbreaks of infectious diseases, including H1N1 (aka swine flu).

Created by Children's Hospital Boston and MIT Media Lab, it taps data provided by HealthMap, an online service that "collects filters, maps, and disseminates information about emerging infectious diseases."

You can view a Google Maps map of outbreaks in your location or search for a specific spot, such as someplace you might be traveling. There's also a list view that shows a summary of each outbreak's associated news story. (You can tap through to read any story, but doing so bounces you out of the app and into Safari.)

To really add to the fear factor, Outbreaks Near Me supports push, meaning it can alert you right on your iPhone (and/or via e-mail) when new outbreaks are reported in the area.

Finally, the app lets users submit their own outbreak reports, complete with photos. The good news is that HealthMap reviews these submissions before posting them.

The bad new is OH MY GOD WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! Actually, after thinking about it in a calm, rational manner (made possible through the magic of pharmaceuticals), Outbreaks Near Me is a decidedly worthwhile app.

It's something travelers can use to steer clear of disease-ridden areas. Parents can see if there's any cause to keep the kids home from school (because of an H1N1 discovery, for example). And the more people who are informed about outbreaks, the easier it will be to prevent their spread.

By the way, it turns out there are no H1N1 cases in my area. I saw the red pushpins on the map and assumed the worst, but the reports were all pertaining to animals or vegetation.

Still, maybe I'll just stay under the covers a bit longer.