The DHS Office of Health Affairs has announced its intention to stay updated on the outbreaks of infectious diseases affecting both humans and animals by having news about them from all parts of the world coming to a single feed 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)… requires a real-time, open source, bio-surveillance data feed to support mission objectives of providing earlier warning and enhanced situational awareness for biological threats of national concern,” the government solicitation issued on Tuesday reads.
US government health officials want the real-time data feed to draw information from at least 25,000 open online sources and to be updated at least every hour. Diseases alerts are welcome in the form of emails or RSS feed.
The US government expects the information thus provided to give details on the time and place of the disease outbreak. The data should be gathered from news releases published in at least five different languages (English, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese), and be translated into English.
Meanwhile, news of diseases seems to be quick enough to spread globally these days. A single case of bubonic plague in Kyrgyzstan was enough to make headlines across world media outlets and also to make some of the country’s neighbors consider measures to prevent the disease from spreading.
The outbreak of the latest strain of bird flu, labeled H7N9, was widely covered this spring, with experts looking into the possibility of a pandemic.
Almost simultaneously the world had its eyes on a new coronavirus (nCoV), similar to SARS, but less contagious. What caused global concern was the estimate that its death rate among detected cases was almost 50 percent.
Every time a new virus makes its way into the global media spotlight, however, skeptics come up with allegations the threats are being exaggerated by drug companies to increase profits.