Pandemics and maps

In the wake of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the CCF team came across a collection of maps that spatially visualise outbreaks, and did a little research around the analytics that illustrate pandemic movements. As it turns out, there has been an effort to document pandemics since as early as the 1600s.

Marie Patino’s article, ‘Coronavirus Outbreak Maps Rooted in History’ shares these historic maps enabling us to understand the shift in data analytics and gathering from a more central approach towards radical democratisation of technology, catalysed through Internet access and data sharing.

This online dashboard was developed by Johns Hopkins University to track the 2019-20 COVID-19 outbreak. As of 31st January, it had racked up 52 million views, according to ESRI.1
‘Metabiota’ structures data from multiple health organisations to track on-going epidemics. It has also on-boarded and cleaned information about thousands of previous outbreaks.1
In the earliest documented disease map, Filippo Arrieta visualized the strategy for containing the spread of disease in the region of Bari, Italy 1690-92. (Controlling the geographical spread of infectious disease: plague in Italy, 1347-1851)1
Valentine Seaman, An Inquiry into the Cause of the Prevalence of the Yellow Fever in New York, in the Medical Repository, 1797. (Brian Altonen) 1
John Snow, Plan Showing the Ascertained Deaths from Cholera. The black bars represent deaths from the disease. (Wellcome Collection online archives) 1
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Richard Grainger, Cholera Map of the Metropolis. 1849, 1850. Via the Wellcome Collection online archives. 1
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Sections showing the relative intensity of the attack of cholera at the various levels along the lines marked on the cholera map. (Wellcome Collection online archives).1

Jay Hilotin’s photo essay, ‘Spanish flu 1918 v/s Covid-19′, shares interesting stills and glimpses depicting the on-ground reality of pandemics, within them is a map titled, ‘Worldwide Diffusion of Influenza’, which illustrates the second wave of the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

PATHS OF INFECTION: Map depicting the Spanish flu pandemic 1918, Patterson KD, Pyle GF, “The Geography and Mortality of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.” Image Credit: Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1991; 65(1): 4-21. 2

Historian Mark Osborne Humphries claims he had found “archival evidence” that a respiratory illness that struck northern China in November 1917. This illness was identified a year later by Chinese health officials as identical to the Spanish ‘flu. Humphries also found medical records which indicate that more than 3,000 of the 25,000 Chinese Labor Corps workers who were transported across Canada en route to Europe starting in 1917 ended up in medical quarantine, many with flu-like symptoms.

‘Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak’ in the New York Times, presents a constantly updating world map and illustrating the average number of new cases each day (for the last 7 days). It presents a great insight into how this strain of coronavirus propagates at a regional scale and presents an opportunity to document the global rise of the disease.

This is a screenshot of the New York Times coronavirus map, retrieved on 25 March 2020. Sources: Local Governments; The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University; National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China; World Health Organization. 3
The map shows the known locations of coronavirus cases by US county. Circles are sized by the number of people there who have tested positive, which may differ from where they contracted the illness. Some people who travelled overseas were taken for treatment in California, Nebraska and Texas. Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories are not shown. Sources: State and local health agencies, hospitals, C.D.C.3

Nikhil Rampal’s, the India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU), used Google Trends data, to try to measure the degree of curiosity around the deadly virus in India. This analysis denoted that, across India, the search term ‘coronavirus’ was explored most frequently by people in Goa. Goa had a score of 100, (which means that the percentage of people searching for information on the virus through Google was the highest in the country). According to Google Trends, values are calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, while a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular.

Graphic produced by India Today Data Intelligence Unit, based on Google Trends data.4




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