Monday, November 06, 2006


Ever wonder how widespread these waves of colds, flues, etc. are? Having recently had kids in daycare, and, working in an office, I've repeatedly, as I believe most people have, witnessed diseases that come in waves. Now, I wonder, for one thing, what this means for the first-tier medical profession. Could they actually diagnose illnesses with 99.9% accuracy over the phone or Internet, because they already know that bugs A, B, C and D are at various points of activity in the area? Is there greater variation that that?

The reason to take a child to a doctor is usually not to find out whether they have X, Y or Z virus, but to find out whether it has caused a bacterial infection, which is sufficiently bad to warrant antibiotics, or to find out if something else is going on.

Perhaps it's only a desire for what WIRED magazine calls "infoporn," but I think it would be cool to be able to have community-, or nation-, or world-wide visibility into the spread of illnesses, and what better way to do it that as a distributed, online community? I imagine governments already do this sort of thing, but visibility to the public is, as far as I know, very poor, and it would raise privacy concerns if all doctors report all illnesses to some entity.

So, what I'm thinking of is a place where you register, with rough home, office, school and daycare locations, somewhat anonymously, but to make it easy to not have to repeat location information for illnesses, and can feed in any non-sensitive information about illnesses you witness. I imagine questionnaires would be developed over time to make the data more aggregatable.

What good would it do? I'm not sure. Maybe you could know better when to telecommute, or start taking vitamins. Maybe new patterns would be seen that could be used to prevent the spread, since more people would have access to such data.

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