Feds digitize spread of West Nile virus

USGS has launched a hightech surveillance effort to track the spread of the virus using stateoftheart mapping and geographic information systems

The National Atlas West Nile virus maps

The U.S. Geological Survey has teamed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and federal, state and local government agencies in 19 states to produce online, interactive maps to track the West Nile virus.

A strain of encephalitis that is spread by mosquitoes, the West Nile virus killed seven people last year in New York, and traces of the virus have been found in at least four other states. Massachusetts became the latest state to report evidence of the virus when on July 21 two crows tested positive for the disease. Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland also have reported cases of the disease.

USGS has launched a high-tech surveillance effort to track the spread of the virus using state-of-the-art mapping and geographic information systems. Online maps are updated regularly and will help federal, state and local health officials devise strategies to protect communities from the virus and alert officials and physicians of new outbreaks.

CDC also maintains a secure World Wide Web site that provides authorities with early access to summary data from the surveillance system to ensure that errors are corrected before information is made available to the public. Users must have a digital certificate to access the secure CDC Web site.

Authorities generate reports on the spread of the virus each week by tapping a master database of information that has been approved and released by the states. Likewise, maps are generated by USGS/National Atlas Project staff and available on the National Atlas web site. The National Atlas is a governmentwide project directed by USGS. The maps and corresponding graphs and tables are made available on the National Atlas Web site every Friday evening. Additional maps are posted every Tuesday.

Maps are arranged on the Web site according to case type. Users can view the following maps: Human Cases, Veterinary Cases, Wild Bird Cases, Sentinel Flock Surveillance and Mosquito Surveillance.

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