MappyHealth is the winner of a Department of Health and Human Services challenge for software that uses social media to track disease outbreaks in real time.

Thirty-three developers submitted applications to the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, with the winner getting $21,000. MappyHealth is a Web-based application that uses open-source Twitter data to show the top five trending illnesses during the past 24 hours in a given geographic location.

Public health officials learned during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and the Haiti cholera outbreak that trends in social media can indicate outbreaks earlier than conventional surveillance methods, according to HHS. However, Web-based apps typically take a retrospective look at an outbreak, rather than show trends in real-time. MappyHealth currently tracks 234 condition terms across 26 conditions.

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