With news on H1N1 coming in fast and furious — and from all corners of the world — Mike Coston at Avian Flu Diary highlights the volunteer citizens who are helping to gather and analyze it for their fellow members of the public. In his post “Drinking From The Fire Hose,” Coston writes:
“With flu season in the northern hemisphere upon us, and cooler weather bringing the likelihood of new H5N1 bird flu reports as well, the newshounds that work the flu forums are looking at six very busy months ahead.
Newshounds are volunteers who spend hours each day searching in the hundreds of online English and Foreign language news sources for information pertaining to pandemic influenza, avian flu, and other emerging infectious diseases…Their work thankfully is archived on the flu forums, where it is discussed, analyzed, and becomes part of the historical record. The flu forums have essentially become repositories of flu and infectious disease information, that function like real-time libraries.”
Coston notes that the newshounds’ good work appears on flu forums like Flu Wiki and FluTrackers as well as on blogs like his (and mine) — and is ultimately used by public health practioners, policymakers and average citizens:
“Much of what I do in this blog is dependent upon their labors. While I still do a fair amount of news hounding myself, at least half of the stories I blog about come by way of these hardworking news analysts…
Both FluTrackers and the Flu Wiki produce a daily summary of news items, which helps make it easier to pluck out individual news stories from the onslaught of posts.
The Flu Wiki summary is updated in real time, during the day, at the top of each day’s news thread. Each item has a corresponding link to take you to the original source material (news article, journal article, etc.)…FluTrackers takes a slightly different approach, posting a summary at slightly irregular intervals, but generally every 24 to 36 hours.”
“All of this, as you might imagine, takes an incredible amount of work and dedication. Scores of these folks work on the forums without pay, and far too often without recognition. Their work, by the way, is freely shared between forums and with the world.
The expertise of many of these newshounds is remarkable, with some becoming quite adept at translating articles, and knowledgeable about local customs and idioms in places like Indonesia and China.”
If you have not already, I recommend you checking out these forums both for the flu information available on them as well as a model of what can be done by knowledgeable, committed and public spirited citizens in the area of emergency preparedness and response.