Amplifying Insights into Global Flu Outbreaks through Community Reporting
A data visualization platform that informs epidemiologists and the public health community about flu-like symptoms from around the world.
Ending Pandemics (formerly the Skoll Global Threats Fund) works with partners across the globe to quickly find, verify, and contain disease outbreaks anywhere they might emerge. Their vision is to advance traditional disease surveillance by applying technology to quickly detect and respond to pandemics.
Since 2012, Ending Pandemics has convened a network of disease monitoring organizations, allowing the public health community to share best practices, consult on analytic methods, and advance the methods of direct engagement of populations to monitor disease. They focus on collecting data through participatory surveillance – gathering information from real people, in real time, who are experiencing flu-like symptoms across the globe. Participatory surveillance allows Ending Pandemics and their partners to capture information on people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms, beyond formal reports from sources like hospital records.
While COVID-19 remains a significant and persistent threat worldwide, influenza is continually circulating around the world – posing an annual threat and a constant reminder than pandemic strains of the flu can emerge at any time. During one of the most intense flu seasons on record in 2017-2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 900,000 Americans were hospitalized with the flu – double the number of most regular seasons. Of those that got sick, 80,000 died. Over 180 deaths were babies, children, and teenagers. This number exceeds the previous highest number of flu-caused deaths in children during a flu season.
Historically, medical experts have tracked the growth and severity of the flu through formal reports from hospitals, Urgent Care offices, and other health care institutions. These formal reports take time to compile and can have a time lag of 1-2 weeks. Additionally, these reports are limiting because not everyone who contracts the flu seeks medical care. Without a system that allows medical experts to track real-time flu-symptom data, institutions like the CDC are unable to make quick, informed decisions in the face of an epidemic that can have a lasting impact on the health of Americans.
Ending Pandemics has worked with multiple organizations and ministries of health from around the world to create digital products that support participatory surveillance. Through their collaboration, Ending Pandemics is able to capture real-time symptom data in countries that include US, Brazil, Thailand, and Tanzania. Furthermore, partner organizations in Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand are employing similar approaches to tracking influenza-like illness.
Initially, the Ending Pandemics team asked Exygy to administer design and technical audits of their digital products used by international grantees. These audits allowed Ending Pandemics to help each organization scale their data collection processes in order to reach wider communities. After several successful engagements, our team was asked to help bring a new idea to life: Global Flu View – a web-based platform that aggregates influenza-like illness symptoms from people around the world to create a global data visualization that informs epidemiologists and the public health community with their data.
As an agile-based team, we began by building a lean prototype of Global Flu View. We tested various options for visualizing flu symptom data sets over time. Though our first prototype took just a small slice of data from one location, it was enough to reveal the demand for this kind of data visualization platform.
Our team then completed the full build of the application with data from the United States, Australia, and is currently onboarding select European countries. We continue to work with Ending Pandemics to incorporate data from additional countries onto the platform. To streamline the integration of this data onto the platform, we worked to standardize how Ending Pandemics and their partners collect and share information through APIs. This reinforced our ability to accurately aggregate the research we received.
Eric Lam, Partner - Health
Global Flu View is the first app of its kind. It is a revolutionary resource for epidemiologists and public health agencies everywhere, as it immediately captures data from real people experiencing flu-like symptoms around the world. The Global Flu View data visualization tool allows those invested in protecting their communities from the flu to compare trends from country to country, and from year to year. By utilizing the information gathered by Global Flu View, we are making great strides forward in fostering safe and resilient communities across the globe.
Exygy’s Agile approach has allowed both our organization and our partner organizations to collaborate seamlessly in product design, testing, and deployment. Their team has provided the flexibility to work across multiple stakeholders in multiple countries and delivered a product that we’re truly excited about.Adam Crawley, Program Officer at Ending Pandemics